Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool owners asking questions as pressure on Hodgson increases

By Ian Herbert

Liverpool’s American owners are starting to harbour doubts about Roy Hodgson and are particularly concerned about the manager's increasingly fractured relationship with supporters after the excruciating home defeat to Wolves.

The owners are understood to have been surprised to find that Hodgson had questioned the supporters after the 1-0 defeat during which ironic chants of “Hodgson for England” and calls for Kenny Dalglish were heard.

They do not feel the fans should have been further alienated after a performance in which principal owner John W Henry was not convinced the players were sufficiently committed. Hodgson observed after the match that, in his six months as Liverpool manager, “the famous Anfield support has not been there” and demands “those fans become supporters as well, because this is the time when the club needs supporters.”

The 14-day break created by the cancellation of Liverpool's fixtures with Fulham and Blackpool created the platform to excel against a Wolves side who arrived at Anfield with the worst away record in the four English leagues.

In those circumstances, the Americans were particularly surprised by the listless performance Hodgson's players put in.

Henry and his chairman Tom Werner had been hopeful that Hodgson could at least see them through to the end of the season and initially expressed surprise at the level of criticism the 63-year-old has incurred.

If Hodgson were to be sacked, the problem is who might be available to take the club through to the summer.

Dalglish would certainly love the opportunity and could restore the link to the supporters, though his temporary appointment could store up more trouble. Were Dalglish were to succeed in any way as a caretaker, it might be difficult to remove him harmoniously in favour of a younger long-term manager such as Marseilles' Didier Deschamps, Porto's Andrew Villas Boas or even Bolton 's Owen Coyle.

There is also the risk that, after a decade out of the front line, Dalglish simply couldn't deliver Liverpool towards the top of the table. In the meantime, Dalglish remains a brooding presence for Hodgson.

“In the summer we lost one manager and got another one in,” is the limit of his cool assessment of the new manager in his latest column for the club's own weekly magazine.

The Americans may be reluctant to move swiftly with the prospect of the FA Cup third round tie at Old Trafford only ten days away and there are good reasons not to react prematurely and instead wait until the summer until moving for the kind of young manager Henry may well prefer.

Hodgson's players, whom he insisted, still support him and have proved themselves perfectly capable. The side had started to show signs of promise only last month with a creditable display in the defeat at Tottenham and victory over Chelsea before demolitions of Aston Villa and West Ham. Two dire defeats and two cancelled games have now destroyed the momentum. Coyle's Bolton present a tough challenge on Saturday.

Hodgson is a popular figure within Anfield and there is a feeling among some that he is too candid and articulate for his own good at times.

Nothing the manager said in his questioning of the supporters was factually inaccurate — there has, indeed, been little fans' support for him — and his language on Wednesday night was not intemperate. But by calling for better support he has rendered his relationship with supporters an even more dislocated one.

There is also a feeling — perfectly justified — from some quarters at Anfield that Fernando Torres has escaped scot free from the wrath of fans, while Hodgson has taken all the abuse.

One of the causes Hodgson ascribes to is that the days of journeymen teams are over and that every Premier League side has at least one elite potential matchwinner, from Wigan's Charles N'Zogbia to Wolves' Matt Jarvis.

With each side capable of achieving a decent level, Hodgson reasons, delivery from that star player is more often the difference between success and failure.

Torres is one of the men for Liverpool and, despite playing in every league game bar one this season and enjoying a contract way beyond that of Jamie Carragher — whose new deal has been the source of criticism from some quarters — he does not look interested.

It has not been lost on some that Torres' only star performance was in the first half against Chelsea, the side to which he would welcome a move.

Liverpool’s former managing director Christian Purslow was desperate to keep Torres as part of the process of making the club attractive to buyers and the informal understanding reached before Henry's New England Sports Ventures (NESV) group took over was that he would be permitted to leave at the end of this season if Liverpool had failed to qualify for the Champions League and a £50m offer came in.

Now the 26-year-old seems to be way beyond the manager's control.

Tactically, Hodgson's style, with Pepe Reina punting long balls in his direction when he needs the ball played to his feet, is often far less suited to him, but that does not account for his season.

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