Belfast Telegraph

Questions Roy Hodgson will have to answer for Liverpool

By Steven Beacom

The new manager has a series of challenges to overcome if his time in charge is to be successful.

Q: Will Roy Hodgson be able to keep Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres?

A: Tricky one. Given their performances in the World Cup he may not want to. Just joking. He’ll be desperate to retain the services of both.

Gerrard is a diehard Red but even he may struggle to resist the overtures of Jose Mourinho for a third time, especially now that the Special One is farther afield at Real Madrid rather than in the Premier League with Chelsea.

If Gerrard makes it clear he wants to leave, Liverpool are likely to let him go for £25 million.

As for Torres, he has looked unsettled for a while now, not just with Liverpool, but with Spain. Barcelona, Manchester City and Chelsea are keen and Liverpool could certainly do with the £50 million they would get for him.

He has become a superstar at Liverpool and owes the Kop another season.

Injury-prone Torres says he loves the fans. We’ll soon see how much. If Hodgson keeps both, he’ll have done exceptionally well.

Q: What about other players moving on?

A: If Gerrard and Torres stay – and that’s a big if – expect to see a lot of others go to raise funds. Javier Mascherano, who may turn out to be the World Cup winning captain, could be sold for around £25 million with Barcelona and Rafa Benitez’s Inter Milan interested.

Under-performing winger Ryan Babel would also command a big fee, while his Dutch colleague Dirk Kuyt fancies joining Benitez, his biggest fan, in Italy.

Yossi Benayoun looks certain to make the move to Chelsea for £5 million. Liverpool fans will be sorry about that, their feeling being that there are other far worse players who should leave before the Israeli. Albert Riera is another set to depart.

Q: Who will come in?

A. Brede Hangeland, Fulham’s giant centre-back, has been mentioned, but the first priority for Hodgson will be to bring in a high-class striker as back up to Torres — or two of them if the Spaniard leaves.

Serbian Milan Jovanovic is supposed to be on his way, though Uruguay’s Diego Forlan would be a better bet, even taking into account his previously unsuccessful spell in the Premier League with Manchester United.

Otherwise a quick winger with a bit of a bottle about him, unlike Babel, would be useful too. A decent left-back is a must too, though Roy will find that he won’t be able to compete with Manchester City’s finance or the lure of the Champions League which Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham can offer. If Gerrard goes to the Bernabeu, Hodgson should ask Jose Mourinho to make it a swap deal with Xabi Alonso.

Q: Will kids start to come through at Anfield?

A: It may take some time, but it would save the Reds some money if it happens. Benitez, as part of the terms of his last contract, took control of the academy and oversaw a major overhaul of the coaching staff in his final year.

Obviously Hodgson will have to assess the situation when he gets settled because right now, with Benitez gone, the youth set-up is in limbo. One idea in the next few years would be to ask Jamie Carragher to run the academy.

Q: How will Hodgson deal with the owners?

A: Differently to Rafa Benitez who was intent on fighting with them every five minutes. Hodgson is an experienced guy and will know that airing dirty laundry in public is not the way to go. If he has disputes with Tom Hicks and George Gillett they will be kept in-house, which will be the best course of action for all concerned, with these past few years being something of a soap opera.

New owners of course may be on the way, but having dealt with the controversial Mohammed Al Fayed at Fulham, Hodgson should be able to cope with anything in the boardroom, even at the modern day Liverpool.

Q How will the fans take to him?

A. Like any new manager he will be welcomed by the Kop even though for most he would not have been first choice. The fans will give him a bit of time because they know the club is in a mess and needs sorting out.

Unlike last season when expectation was at fever pitch, hopes aren’t high for the new campaign and that will help the new boss.

His target should be to play attractive football, gain Champions League qualification and give the fans a day out at Wembley in a Cup final. Do all that, and the supporters will love him.

Belfast Telegraph


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