Belfast Telegraph

It is not fair, but Liverpool experience will always haunt Roy Hodgson

By Ian Herbert

England have been here before, with Roy Hodgson.

When Sir Alex Ferguson, of all people, was pointing them in Sven Goran Eriksson's direction after Kevin Keegan's dramatic departure, 12 years ago, he was one of the English names on the huge, blank piece of paper Adam Crozier pinned to a wall for the selection committee's consideration in Helsinki, where the national side happened to be playing a World Cup qualifier. Hodgson fell at the first hurdle – failing what Crozier considered to be the "sustained success" test.

It is the very test which will stalk him into Wembley if he is handed the England job. Because although Hodgson has achieved more than Andre Villas-Boas in European football over the past two years – taking a club of Fulham's means to a Europa League final being a finer achievement than reaching that pinnacle with Porto – history will damn him again and again with one word. Anfield. Well, his record there may have marked him down as a "small club manager" in many eyes but in this season of relentless revisionism, when managers are built up and knocked down, history judges Hodgson's 191 days at Liverpool rather differently now.

The man whose head they all called for when "Hodgson Out" graffiti was being daubed on the exterior walls of Melwood and what Hodgson injudiciously described as "the famous Anfield support" was offering him ironic applause, can be viewed as rather less of a failure in the light of Kenny Dalglish's travails, with a considerably bigger Fenway Sports Group transfer budget. Hodgson won six league games at Anfield before he was sacked in January last year. Now here we are in April with Dalglish still seeking his sixth home win of the season. Certainly, Dalglish knows the nuances and history of the club and its supporters. He speaks of Shankly and does not play the long ball in a way so alien to the club's fabric. But as one observer put it after the 64-year-old Hodgson's West Bromwich Albion won at Anfield two weeks ago, Liverpool's stagnation "was once called 'The Hodgson Effect'. Nowadays, it is just called bad luck."

Keegan actually called it right. "It's not easy but Liverpool have been in decline for a number of years and I think Roy Hodgson is just picking up the tab," he said. "Where are all these youngsters they signed? None of them have come through. I think there are a lot of questions that need to be asked way beyond Roy Hodgson."

My only discussion of any length with Hodgson, talking Paris, Liverpool architecture, Steve Coogan's and Rob Brydon's BBC series The Trip four months into his Liverpool journey, revealed a man just starting to grow into Anfield. His dismissal cut him and it was a mark of him that he put it behind him, took West Bromwich to safety and might now lead them to their first top-10 finish in the Premier League.

Some will doubt the potential of his 4-4-2 systems to enervate either fans or his players. Others will crave the mass appeal of Harry Redknapp, a man with the word for every occasion. More still will point to failure at Blackburn Rovers and mixed results at Internazionale. But at least let the true, unvarnished story of Hodgson and Liverpool be heard. That of a de facto caretaker, asked to shepherd a club through the uncertainty of a messy takeover, who imbued Anfield with Raul Meireles, as well as Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen. At least then Hodgson gets half a chance to pursue sustained success with England.

England fixtures


Norway (a) 26 May, friendly

Belgium (h) 2 June, friendly

Euro 2012 group stage

France 11 June

Sweden 15 June

Ukraine 19 June

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