Roy Hodgson, the man given the task of restoring happier times at Liverpool certainly arrives with a wealth of experience to aid his quest. A man well traveled, the 62-year-old Englishman is about to embark on what many deem his most difficult journey.
Hodgson began his long career in 1976 at Swedish side Halmstad, who he led to the Swedish championship in his first year in the job, a great achievement after having previously been relegation candidates. Hodgson has maintained a love of Scandinavia throughout his career with further management spells at Malmo FF, FC Copenhagen, Viking and as coach of the Finland national team. His time spent in Scandinavia has certainly been his most successful to date in terms of trophies won.
Despite spending considerable time in less glamorous surroundings than the Premier League, Hodgson’s most high profile position, until being unveiled at Anfield, was without doubt his two spells in charge at Inter Milan, in 1995-97 and in 1999. The Inter squad was not at its strongest at that point in time, something which league finishes of 13th and 6th in the seasons prior to Hodgson’s arrival highlights. It was certainly not a team that dominated in Italy as the current side are able to.
Despite that, it has always been one of the most high profile management positions, at one of Europe’s household names. Hodgson brought his steadying influence once again, leading the team to qualification for the UEFA Cup, a competition in which they progressed through to the final the following season.
Apart from a brief and ultimately disappointing spell in charge of Bristol City between 1980-82, Hodgson’s first job within England didn’t actually arrive until 1997 with Blackburn Rovers, sandwiched in between his two spells at Inter. It all started well for him, a sixth place finish a great improvement on the previous season. However the wheels were about to come off. A series of poor judgments within the transfer market left the team in a desperate struggle as the new season began. Hodgson was sacked in December 1998.
Having had such a disappointing spell in charge of Blackburn and in the Premier League, Hodgson’s reputation within the English game suffered a heavy blow, something that he was only able to redeem after joining Fulham in 2007. Many Fulham fans were initially shocked and arguably even disappointed when Hodgson was appointed manager at Craven Cottage, so long had he been out of the spotlight within the English game. Mohammed Al Fayed deserves praise for appointing Hodgson and at a time when the club were perilously close to relegation.
It was a decision that not only altered fan’s perceptions of Hodgson, but also helped to build Fulham into a strong Premier League outfit. His now well-documented achievements at the club led to him being named as the LMA Manager of the Year, and ultimately a shot at managing the most decorated club in the country. But what next?
He will certainly experience more pressure than he has been used to in recent years, particularly if he starts his reign in disappointing fashion. Hodgson needs to hit the ground running. The appointment seems a sensible choice though, a manager who, as Martin Broughton ‘eloquently’ put it, has “been around”…. but you see what he was getting at. Hodgson certainly comes with a wealth of experience to call upon, one of the most varied management CV’s one is likely to see. Hodgson’s style and personality will make him popular amongst the players. As an Englishman, Hodgson has grown up aware of what Liverpool Football Club represents and its standing within the English game. Not the biggest name that Liverpool supporters might hope to see in the dugout but he appears to be the right manager at the right time for the club.
In terms of what can realistically be achieved within his first year is one difficult to answer. Before anything else, key players must be retained, a point that is becoming tiring to repeat. And quality acquisitions need to be sought. But given the right conditions, there is still quality within that squad. Reina, Carragher, Agger, Johnson, Mascherano, Kuyt, Gerrard, Torres is not a bad base from which to build.
The squad is lacking the three or four top quality players that added to those already there can really push on and achieve. If these can be found and the squad remains in tact then despite recent troubles, there will be a air of optimism and sense of excitement once the curtain is raised on the upcoming season. Liverpool Football Club exists to win trophies, a requirement even more pressing given four barren years. For Hodgson, the man well travelled, a new chapter begins..hopefully, come August, with the potential for a happy ending.
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