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Soup Of This Day #96: It’s Getting Hard To Be Someone But It All Works Out

November 6, 2011

Shankly Statue at Anfield
Statue of Bill Shankly at Anfield. Shankly is the father of the modern Liverpool FC, the yardstick by which Anfield’s custodians are judged – Photo: Stuart Frisby, 2007. Stuart Frisby is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

The Red Sox are currently on the hunt for a new manager. A number of candidates have already interviewed. I’d give you an opinion on them but there’s a problem with that – I don’t have 1.

It’s not that I don’t care – I do and I’m reading tweets, beats and Keats like crazy to keep abreast of the news. Ok, the Keats bit just rhymes – I’m not actually reading Keats – It’s nice I’m sure but Longworth72 just doesn’t roll with the romantics.

It’s also not that I think nobody can be the new Tito – I don’t but that’s ok, we just ditched Tito so the next manager probably should not be Tito.

No, my problem with commenting on who the next manager should be is that I’m crap at picking them. They’re all good managers I presume – They didn’t get to where they got to by being bad at it – There is just too much they have had to get through to get this far in their careers. The key though is whether they will be the right manager for the Sox and I can’t honestly say that I know that someone will be a good fit before he or she proves it. It’s not like I’m privy to the interviews or anything.

In July of 2010 Liverpool FC appointed Roy Hodgson as their new manager, replacing Rafa Benitez, the Spaniard who had brought European success but had neglected to pay attention to Liverpool’s league aspirations. Hodgson was a good choice in my eyes. A stable hand on the tiller, he represented experience. And he was experienced like no other: The 63 year old had been a manager since 1976, when he held the reins at Carshalton Athletic in the Isthmian League Division 2. Then followed stints at 13 different club sides, spanning 6 countries. He’d found time in there to guide 3 national teams, including the Swiss at the 1994 World Cup, where they belied not qualifying for the previous 34 years to go so far as to make the last 16.

That was my 1st look at a Roy Hodgson side – Sitting up late in a flat I shared with my brother watching the Swiss draw with the USA in their opening fixture. Nice uniforms there Team USA. In their 2nd match the Swiss played Romania. It was an unassuming match at kick-off that developed into a game by which I measure all other World Cup matches. The Swiss were brilliant, organised and composed, yet possessed of an exhilarating attacking verve and sheer bloody-minded intensity. I watched, stunned and thought that this was how football should be played. With Australia absent I promptly adopted the Swiss as my team of the tournament, applauding Sutter, Chapuisat, Knup and yep, Hodgson.

Still that was 16 years past by the time Liverpool came calling. More current was his form with Fulham in the EPL. He arrived at Fulham at a low point in their top-flight existence, with the team entering 2008, favourites to be relegated. Under Hodgson though they pulled off the great escape, clinching safety on the last day. The next season, 2008/09 he took the Cottagers to 7th and qualified them for Europe. Then, in 2009/10 he guided Fulham to the final of the Europa Cup, upsetting Juventus along the way. That the London Davids had been down 4-1 on aggregate to the Italian Goliaths made it all the more meritorious: They triumphed 5-4 in the end. They were to lose the final 2-1 to Atletico Madrid but were not disgraced and a 12th place in the league further demonstrated the team’s and Hodgson’s credentials.

With his stock rising Hodgson was on the Liverpool shortlist. The man who helped compile that list was Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish. He disagreed with my assessment of the Fulham manager. Instead he submitted to the board that the applicants that he had helped drum up were all unsuitable and that he was actually the best choice. Which seemed a bit cheeky at the time – Kenny was on the interview panel so there was a significant conflict of interest and furthermore he hadn’t been a manager for nigh on 15 years. No I thought, King Kenny was best suited as a figurehead ambassador while the proven Hodgson would stabilise a discontented roster and begin to rebuild a great club.

Or not.

Roy was @#$%. Or more accurately the combination of Roy Hodgson and Liverpool FC was @#$%. Hodgson just seemed monumentally out of his depth – A man with that much experience was reduced to nothing more than a hang-dog expression as his team was sent packing by League 2’s Northampton Town. At Anfield. By the year’s end Liverpool had their lowest points total for 56 years and while not in relegation contention, being lost in mid-table is not what the Anfield faithful want.

And so in January Liverpool sacked Roy Hodgson and appointed Kenny Dalglish on an interim basis. King Kenny has since been, frankly brilliant, restoring pride in a great club and extracting results from a squad that had poor old Roy baffled. Liverpool recovered to finish last term in 6th and this season are thereabouts for European progression.

All of which came to mind last weekend as Liverpool traveled to West Brom. The Albion were just 4 points adrift of Liverpool and were happily ensconced in mid-table. This season they have a new manager, an experienced manager, a stable hand on the tiller even.

Yep, Roy Hodgson is at West Bromwich Albion.

The man is too good to be unemployed, although in this instance Liverpool continued to haunt him, notching 2 goals and cantering to an easy away win. Tonight – in fact right now – Roy takes his lads to Arsenal and it remains to be seen whether he can recreate some of that Swiss spirit of 94.

Liverpool meanwhile are hosting Swansea. In September of 1981 Bill Shankly died. He is considered to be the greatest of all Liverpool managers and the contrast with Roy Hodgson, who held the reins at Anfield for a record low 31 matches, is marked. Just 4 days after his death Liverpool hosted Swansea and now 30 years and 1 month later the Swans are back and in celebration here now is my live blog of 2 football matches:

0 min: Liverpool without local stalwarts Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. Meanwhile Roy Hodgson is demanding a response from his players following last week’s loss to Liverpool. I’m assuming crying is out then Roy?

8 min: Andy Carroll hits the bar from 6m out. Which would be gold if it counted for anything.

22 min: Liverpool shading Swansea early with a number of decent chances. Meanwhile at Arsenal West Brom are 1 down as the Gunners have just scored.

30 min: Good chance for Swansea and an equally good reflex stop from Reds captain Pepe Reina. There follows attempts by Suarez and Downing but still 0-0. Meanwhile West Brom yet to have a shot on Arsenal’s goal. Or a shot on anything really.

39 min: Arsenal 2-0 over West Brom who are still yet to manage a shot. Or a corner. They are creaming Arsenal on fouls though.

HT: Liverpool 0, Swansea 0 and Arsenal 2, West Brom 0.

60 min: West Brom have parlayed 34% possession into 3 shots. None on target. Liverpool meanwhile driving me to hang washing out. Yep, 12:20am and I’m going to hang out washing. In the rain. When you walk through a storm and all that.

74 min: West Brom with another off-target shot. Arsenal respond with 1 on-target-and-in-net shot and it’s 3-0. Can’t see him but bet Roy has hang-dog expression. Like Walter Matthau on a downer.

85 min: Liverpool score… and then the goal is ruled out for offside. Meanwhile West Brom have had 4 shots on-target now. They’re still down 3-0.

FT: Poor from the Reds – It finishes 0-0 and that’s 2 points dropped for Kenny Dalglish’s men. Roy Hodgson’s West Brom narrowly beaten 3-0 by Arsenal.

So on a day when I’ve looked at 2 very different managerial choices, neither has inspired. Instead I think I’ll lift a Bill Shankly quote off the current Liverpool FC website:

‘You must believe you are the best then make sure you are.’

Don’t know who it will be Boston but the man who has that attitude is your next Red Sox manager.

It’s Getting Hard To Be Someone But It All Works Out

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