Thursday, 30 December 2010

Speaking Volumes - Roy Hodgson

My LFC supporting friend felt the need to write down his thoughts and feelings after last nights game - this is his email....

This is a quote from the BBC Website. It speaks volumes about Roy Hodgson.

"A lot of our players were below their form and the level we want them to play at. It was a performance way below what we are capable of and what we wanted to give. I'd like to give Wolves credit but Ithink we were a bit unlucky to lose the game. Probably 0-0 would have been a fair result but it was nowhere near our expectations or hopes. It's one of those days thatsaddens you as a coach and as a player. Tonight the fans go home angry and disappointed because they've seen their team play badly."

Firstly, you will never see these words being spoken by Ancelotti, Wenger, Ferguson etc. as they would not allow their teams to have been beaten by Wolves.

But that aside, any honest Liverpool fan who watched the game cannot believe that a 0-0 draw was deserved or fair, nor should it have even be contemplated.

We played Wolves, not Barcelona.

Yet, it is perhaps, the second part of the statement, underlined, which provides much more about the state ofmind of Mr Hodgson. For me, it’s the use of the phrase "their team" which is most notable. Its as if he is divorcing himself from the team and the performance. May I suggest that a re-phrasing along the lines of "…fans go home angry and disappointed because we've played badly" would be better received?

Now this use of language suggesting separation between him and the team maybe a sign that he doesn't feel the Liverpool team is "his", when for all the booing and disgruntlement and criticism being aimed at the team by the fans for the parlous state of affairs, there is ultimately only one man who can alter things - and that man is Mr Hodgson.

It would not be histrionics to suggest that Liverpool FC on the pitch are in crisis and historically when we have been in crisis mode in the past, and - with one major exception - the fans it appears have always backed and believed in the manager to do his job and to lead them through.

When lower league, Watford beat us in FA Cup in 1970, it signalled the end of the "60s team", and a major rebuilding provided by the guiding hand of Mr Shankly. The fans believed, the fans trusted, and following a defeat one year later in the FA Cup Final, first Division Championships and European honours flowed; and the fans received their reward.

In the darkest days of the club's history, immediately after Hillsborough, Mr Dalglish provided exceptional leadership by undertaking the mammoth task ofoffering real succour to the fans and families, bychanging the way of thinking of the club and ultimately the sport. Liverpool FC moved from a being strictly commercial institution, designed only to win trophies, to an "enlarged family"and in doing so brought the needs (not the wants) of the fans into sharp focus.

Mr Dalglish's leadership brought near normality to an abnormal circumstance and pulled in the support of other clubs. The fans believed in Mr Dalglish and he altered the perception of the club and - for want of a better phrase - the fans received their reward.

Ironically, and far less important than what he achieved during the aftermath of Hillsborough, upon his resignation, it is arguable that Mr Dalglish left a much weaker Liverpool squad than the one he inherited - they had in the main reached a "tipping point" in age. This was the crisis that Mr Souness inherited, compounded by new regulations in Europe (demanding more home grown players in squads) and a need to update the workings of the club, which had remained unchanged for a generation or more. Unlike his predecessors he did not command the respect or belief of the fans that he could lead the club through the crisis, borne out ultimately by the strange decision in aligning himself with a certain "red top" newspaper in the aftermath of his illness. In the end, spelt bold in his resignation letter, Mr Souness acknowledged he tried to change things too quickly and too deeply, which saw his team, boasting good young players like Fowler, McManaman and Redknapp playing next to Julian Dicks, Neil Ruddock and Itsvan Kozma. The fans did not believe, and were proved right.

And now that same non belief is inherent when fans consider whether Mr Hodgson can lead us through the present crisis.

You can argue it’s "not his team", but lest we forget Mr Benitez won the European Cup with the majority of his predecessor's team with a couple of additions. Mr Hodgson is playing with his predecessor's team with a couple of additions, but unlike Garcia and Alonso (Mr Benitez's additions) Mr Hodgson's additions have not inspired confidence (leaving aside Maurieles who was lined up long before Mr Hodgson arrived).

You can argue that "he's not had enough time", but I struggle to think of another profession where you are given time to prove yourself. And yes, I know that football is a pantomime and not of the real world, but try to imagine using that argument with a pilot who has difficulty with direction and control of aeroplanes or a doctor who keeps misdiagnosing ailments or a drummer who's booed off stage night after night for not being able to keep time. "Listen just give him more time, it'll all come good…."

You could argue that his experience will prove invaluable in this time of crisis, but his record and "experience" appear to speak for itself. He took the then Champions of England to the brink of relegation, he managed championship teams in countries where the league is not as strong as the Premiership (Norway and Denmark), he managed Milan for a couple of years reaching a UEFA Cup final, a fate he replicated in over achieving one season with a mid table Fulham and he managed a couple of national sides. And it is perhaps this final statement above all others which for me is the main question that needs to be asked of Liverpool FC when offering Mr Hodgson the manager's position. What was the criteria they used in appointing him?

In the club's Annual Report of 2004, it clearly states that in releasing Mr Houllier from his contract and seeking a replacement a set criteria was formulated and followed. The new manager must have won a major European league; he must have one of the major European trophies; he must have a proven record of developing talent; he must be young enough to be a long term appointment, etc, etc. Mr Benitez ticked all the boxes, was approached, his availability following his resignation at Valencia helped, and he was appointed. So I wonder, what criteria did the (then) Board at Liverpool FC use in seeking to appoint Mr Hodgson? He wasn't available - his contract at Fulham was bought out - his record as above shows non achievement, he has no proven track record of developing young talent, he's never won a major European league, nor cup, and ultimately this is his folly.

I always believed Mr Hodgson was a "holding position" appointment, similar in some small way to Mr Fagan when replacing Mr Paisley. In Mr Fagan's case it was keep winning trophies and keep everyone "on board". For Mr Hodgson, it is keep the team in contention for Europe (5th, 6th, maybe a Champions League push) coupled with a run in the domestic cups and Europe, and to offer a steady hand on the tiller, until a long term replacement is found by the new owners, who were not in place at the time of his appointment. However, it is sad to say that some 18 games into the Premier League season, and less than six months after his appointment, it is quickly realisable that we have a "drummer who can't keep the beat".

I believe Mr Hodgson to be a genuine man. I believe him to have sound football knowledge and theory, but it is painfully obvious that he is not the right man to manage, develop and lead a major European footballing team like Liverpool.

His attention to team matters in both bringing in players and altering the poor state of affairs on the pitch, are acting as the coffin in which his managerial reign in being lowered. His language in divorcing himself from the performance against Wolves, providing that separation, is the coffin lid being nailed down.

And the three words of Blackpool, Northampton and Wolves are the tombstones which ultimately should mark the end Mr Hodgson's disastrous tenure as manager of Liverpool FC.

For the sake of the club, Mr Hodgson now needs to leave with all due haste, less we slip through the trap door (which is waiting) and become a mediocre mid table team...or worse.

Monday, 20 December 2010

A letter from 20 April 1989


Today I found the copy of a letter that I had hand written on 20 April 1989. I sent the letter to MPs, including Eric Heffer, MP for Walton; Sean Hughes, MP for Knowsley South, who forwarded it to George Howarth MP for Knowsley North.

I have typed it word for word so the grammar and structure may not be the best but as you can imagine it was an emotional time. I also gave evidence to the police and the letter was forwarded to Lord Justice Taylor’s investigation.

With the continuing poor and untrue reporting of the Hillsborough Disaster e.g. the Boston Globe. I thought I would share it on here as it was written at the time with fresh memories of that awful day.

“I feel it is important for as many people as possible who were at Hillsborough to write their version of events down and send them to yourself or other MPs. It is the only way our voices will be heard. My version is below.

I am not in any way anti-police but I feel I am justified in criticising some officers on duty both inside and outside the stadium.
I arrived at the Leppings Lane turnstile area at about 2:30 and the crushing was pretty bad then. The mounted officers however were at the front of queue shouting at fans to stop pushing. Myself and other fans asked them to go further back to ease the crowd and make a barrier with their horses but we were ignored.

Once inside almost everyonemade for the tunnel which leads to the middle section of terrace. In my opinion this is because it is the only clear means of getting to the terrace. (The same happened last year)

The crush on the middle section of terrace was so bad even ten minutes before kick off that a number of us were shouting to the policeman on the perimeter fence to open the gate; He did hear us but refused.
Everybody who was in that section were being pushed in all directions. I was lucky – I went sideways and was able to climb over the railings into the section to the right. Everybody at this stage were helping other fans into this section, over the railings.

I seen none of the game, it didn’t matter we knew something was badly wrong.

I cannot comment on the opening of the gate as I used a turnstile and was inside the ground when I heard it had been opened.
I feel I must point out that possibly a bigger factor than the perimeter fencing was the segregation railings with NO gates to my knowledge, which stopped the sideways flow of fans.
It makes me extremely angry and sad that the police, who have sophisticated crowd surveillance equipment did NOT learn any lessons from last years semi.

Even watching the Match of the Day video from last season you can clearly see space on the outer terraces while the middle terrace, as this year, was clearly over capacity.
What is the use of having all this equipment if it is not used to its full potential?
Please make my views known to those who matter.”

The truth is out there. One day 96 souls will have justice. YNWA