Roy Hodgson is Liverpool’s choice to replace the recently departed Rafa Benitez in the Liverpool hot-seat. Impressed by his work as Fulham manager culminating in a momentous Europa League run to the final, he was identified as the first choice replacement for Rafa Benitez. The three-year contract he has signed with the club comes with one ultimatum– to bring the coveted Premier League title to Merseyside for the first time since 1990. The most successful club in English football history, Hodgson immediately acknowledged the size of the task:
“This is the biggest job in club football and I’m honoured to be taking on Britain’s most successful football club,” Hodgson said. Although their fifth UEFA Champions League victory in Benitez’s first season remains perhaps the most memorable in the club’s history, Benitez’s six years at the Anfield helm yielded just two major trophies. Hodgson’s task is simultaneously an enticing and arduous one. Rebuilding a squad which finished last season with such a whimper is clearly an enviable task for the likeable, erstwhile manager.
In spite of the turmoil facing the club off the field, the shallow squad and a season of obvious discomfort and decline, the Liverpool job remains as enviable as it is arduous. Hodgson will be expected to immediately challenge for the Premier League and return the club to the Champions League. His positivity therefore comes as a boost to Liverpool supporters: “I’m here for the long haul and to do the job that needs to be done, hopefully winning trophies very quickly.”
With their worst season for over a decade behind them, patience at Anfield is thin. For Hodgson this is an as much a challenge as an opportunity. Worryingly his only previous spell in charge at the top echelon of club football ended in failure. An Inter Milan squad containing Ronaldo, Robertto Baggio, Ivan Zamorano and a plethora of other star names failed to qualify for European competition with him at the helm. Sceptical Kopites ask whether he has the charisma to deal with egos as large as the Gerrard’s and Torres’s, or the temperament to work in the media spotlight. If landing the Fulham job immediately came with pressure at the wrong end of the table, Liverpool brings pressure of an entirely different kind. In spite of his sterling progress at Fulham, doubts remain about his ability at the very highest level.
Problematically – given the reluctance of the Chairman to release significant funding and inheriting the worst Liverpool squad since 1999 – Hodgson inherits a squad with neither the quality nor the depth to immediately challenge. Make no mistake, the doomed five year plans of Gerard Houllier are not a luxury afforded to him. Success is demanded immediately in spite of the raw materials. Unreasonable expectations are being placed on his shoulders. Nevertheless doubts about his acumen surfaced when he took charge of Fulham. Hodgson, multi-lingual and Cosmopolitan by the shameful standards of parochial English managers, is a proficient manager. He deserves this opportunity. One hopes he is given adequate time to make the best of it and resuscitate England’s most successful club.