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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for Forbes.com and Soccerly.com and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


No Shelter For Hodgson

Written by on January 8, 2011 | 20 Comments »
Posted in General

Less than a year ago Roy Hodgson’s stock was trading at an all all-time high. A mid-table Premier League position was considered an acceptable return for Fulham’s resources with consistently poor away form more an inconvenience than anything else. But the team was well-organized, difficult to break down and good enough to beat Manchester United 3-0 at Craven Cottage. Progress in the Europa League had been secured and European football at the business end of the season was guaranteed for the Fulham faithful.

A losing effort in the Europa League Final to Atletico Madrid was considered the cumulation of a great effort rather than a major set back in not taking that final step. For a team that had only hung on to Premier League existence a few seasons before by the slimmest of margins things it was a magnificent turnaround and Hodgson was the pin up man for sensible management.

Grounded, systematic and repetitive in his craft Hodgson was the consummate low-profile coaching toiler who was  finally gaining the recognition that eluded him during his years overseas (with only a short spell with Blackburn Rovers). Clearly the English media’s favourite to take over from Fabio Capello when his time came (and it so nearly did this past summer) Hodgson was even tagged with the word “genius” by one of the more excitable scribes. Master craftsmen yes, genius well that was as far over the top as a 30 yard effort from Wilson Palacios.

When Liverpool came knocking on Hodgson’s door there were few murmurs of discontent and the move to the Liverpool hot seat seemed almost too obvious. Team in crisis, underperforming, yahoo owners, missing out on a top four spot – it seemed like a job for sensible, predictable Roy who fitted the profile of a safe pair of hands perfectly.

But rather than a match made in heaven it rapidly turned sour. Unlike Fulham where poor away form, a mid table Premier League position and progress in the Europa League exceeded all expectations at Liverpool it came no place close. Although there have been a significant number of barren years since the early nineties Liverpool fans have always believed that their team is a contender and a tweak hear and a signing there would ensure the return to glory days.

But Hodgson was and never was a tweak here or there. He was a coach that believed in his system and and that system needed time to take root.  Time ran out this morning when Hodgson was sacked and replaced by Anfield icon Kenny Dalglish. Whether Dalglish hand’s will prove any safer we can only wait and see.

Manchester United v Liverpool 3rd Round FA Cup

When you consider that the FA Cup was first competed for in 1871/72 and look at  the traditional turnover of teams, it is remarkable and noteworthy that only 42 teams have every lifted the trophy.

Manchester United have won the coveted trophy 11 times and have finished as runners-up seven times; Liverpool 7 wins and 6 times runners up. No team has won the FA Cup more times than Manchester United and only Arsenal and Spurs have a better record than Liverpool.

United have appeared in the most FA Cup Finals (18) with Arsenal experiencing one fewer and Everton, Liverpool and Newcastle United have making it to the last game 13 times.

In head-to-head meetings in the oldest football competition in the world Manchester United and Liverpool have faced-off 15 times. United have by far the better record with 8 wins, 4 draws and only 3 losses.

Their first FA Cup clash came on February 12, 1898 and finished in a goalless stalemate. Four days later in a replay Liverpool beat the then-named Newton Heath 2-1 in a replay. However, Liverpool were destined to go out in the next round losing 5-1 to Derby County. Derby would lose the final to Nottingham Forest with the legendary Steve Bloomer scoring the only goal for Derby in a 3-1 loss.

Since Manchester United returned to the top flight of English football for the 1975/76 season these two sides have been drawn together in the FA Cup six times. Twice it has been in the Final (with United winning both) and three out of the other four occasions the winner of the match has gone on to win the FA Cup.

In the 1978/79 season United beat Liverpool 2-1 after a 2-2 draw but would lose to Arsenal 3-2 in what was probably the most dramatic ending ever seen to any FA Cup Final.

Although the match does not fit the dictionary definition of a derby match there are fewer rivalries more bitter and over the years the unpredictably of the outcomes certainly mimic city derbies.

Much may depend on the line-ups picked by the respective managers. Manchester United are coming off a spell of four Premier League games played in just ten days. Liverpool’s first holiday-time fixture was scheduled at Blackpool on Boxing Day but fell victim to bad weather and a frozen pitch. Nonetheless Liverpool have still played three games in eight days.

Both managers will be eyeing the upcoming Premier League schedule as well as European commitments. It would be surprising if Sir Alex Ferguson fields a side that is recognizable as a first choice eleven (even though he said on Friday that he would field his strongest side) but Fergie is in a very different position to that of Kenny Dalglish.

Even though the conventional wisdom has the Premier League, and more particularly a top four spot, taking on the semblance of the Holy Grail each season, there is an eight point gap (based on points dropped) with Spurs in 4th and Chelsea sitting in between. It is a lot for a Liverpool squad to make up even if they hit stride.

What’s more any definitive decision as to a top 4 finish is months away while the pressure is here and now and a win away to Manchester United (Everton are up a week later in the Premier League) would put the club and the fans in a more positive state of mind.

Squad note

The last time these two sides met in the FA Cup was on February 18, 2006. A 20th minute Peter Crouch goal proved to be the only goal of the game and Liverpool would win the FA Cup on penalty kicks against West Ham three months later.

Of the players who appeared in that match less than five years ago only three Liverpool players remain on the Anfield club books while at Old Trafford there are eight.

For Liverpool it is Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard; for Manchester United, Edwin van der Sar, Gary Neville, Wes Brown, Nemanja Vidic, Darren Fletcher, Ji-Sung Park, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney. Carragher is injured and Park is away at the Asian Cup.

Crowd Note

The sharks looking to take chunks out of Roy Hodgson were quick to jump on the attendance at Anfield when Liverpool met Bolton on New Year’s Day. The announced attendance was 35,400 which was well below the average this season of 41,938 and last season’s average of 42,864. The simplistic conclusion was that the decline in January 1 attendance was a “Hodgson Must Go” statement.

But did one of them step back to consider the logical conclusion of such a statement? What it means is that over 6,000 Liverpool fans believed that staying away would rid the club of Roy Hodgson while they did not believe similar action would have been effective in ridding the club of hated-owners Gillett and Hicks. How warped is that?

Bookies say – Manchester United 1/1.5, Draw 2.6/1, and Liverpool 4.5/1

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20 responses to “No Shelter For Hodgson”

  1. Rob says:

    Shows how little I know

  2. ttred says:

    I think your first line should refer to Hodgson’s stock not stoke.

  3. Gus Keri says:

    Strange day, Bobby

    Like many of Liverpool fans, I was longing for this for so long. Yet, I am not able to express any joy.

    Even the return of the Prodigal Son could not lift this gloomy atmosphere.

  4. Wenger's Love Child says:

    I think what we are seeing here is a gradual and consistent slide by Liverpool over the years combined with their fan base’s impatience and unrealistic expectations of their club. The decade of the ’80s is long over and Liverpool’s glory days are firmly in the rear view mirror. Fighting for a Europa League birth and mid table mediocrity is the new normal at Anfield. The club does not produce players like Arsenal. It does not buy world class players via debt like Man Utd. Liverpool opt to buy sub-world class players via debt instead. Nor do they have the ability to overcome mistakes via deep pocketed owners like Man City and Chelsea can. They aren’t in the UCL and probably won’t be for for the forseeable future. Mascherano saw the writing on the wall and jump the sinking ship. Come summer, I expect both Torres (who the fans consistently slag but the poor lad gets little service) and Reina to leave the club in search of UCL opportunities elsewhere. Gerrard should have left after Istanbul but is loyal to a fault and now doesn’t have much time left to play at the level we are accustom to. Carragher is well past it and if he were a horse would be taken behind the barn and humanely put down. LFC will have extreme difficulty in attracting the top talent going forward. The best players want to play on the grandest stage and that is the Champions’ League. Liverpool cannot offer this prospectively. They can only offer past glories.

    Hodgson should have been given the season to try to right the ship. Midseason moves usually are desperate, at best. But this sacking really was populist. The unwashed masses have want they want. Now, it’s “careful what you wish for” and “you can’t make chicken salad with chicken s***”. Better for LFC supporters to entertain a “new normal” and lowered expectations … or dust off those old John Barnes’ VHS tapes.

  5. TTRed – thanks, it is corrected. That is what I get for rewriting a piece at 6:00 am without coffee in my system.


    Hey Gus
    do you think if there form stays the same the blame will go to Roy and Rafa?will King Kenny have a free ride for the last half of the season?i just think the talent level is not there i say they will finish in the bottom ten.

  7. refan says:

    Fickle fans and so short a memory for some. Rafa finishes 2nd two seasons ago, beats Real Madrid 4 something at Anfield but with the club losing/paying 10’s of thousands a day in interest, unable get new players and has to sell some to buy more, he was in an.untenable situation. 8 of the side that beat Madrid are still playing as part of a squad that is now deemed below par by many fans and pundits alike.
    Kenny Dalglish has won more trophies than Roy Hodgson has won away games. Roy was never a fit for Liverpool and thankfully the idiot who signed him and sacked Rafa had the good sense to resign himself. That MD probably has a seat in Mr Broughton’s exec box at Stamford Bridge now.
    As is Dalglish is a move back to home grown in-house management. If he brings in one or two Liverpool men (eg Thomspon) and reignites the boot room culture then there may well be room for Carragher and Gerrard to make a move into coaching and maybe even accede, as Dalglish did, to the role of Player Manager. It all depends on how this next 5 months goes. I think Kenny needs a two year shot at this and I hope he gets it as his heart is in it and he has, on past evidence, got the nouse, scouse nouse that is.

  8. refan says:

    GO FOREST YOU REDS, Hicks and Gillet are to blame for the teams current situation. Roy like Rafa before him never had a chance once the crash came and the Americans finances went south. The team sold many assets and could not finance new ones of any quality. I think a balance will return to the finances when the new UEFA rules cut in next year. Prices on top players will drop and the deal for Ronaldo to RM may remain a record for a very long time to come. If Kenny only gets 5 months then he can be blamed for nothing and that I believe applies to the previous two gaffers as well.


    since pool has a lot of needs why not sell Torres and get the money and try to fill some of the holes.i think Rafa has blame for the deals he made.i believe he spent a lot of money and most of the deals did not pan out.

  10. Ursusarctos says:


    “When Liverpool came knocking on Hodgson’s door there were few murmurs of discontent and the move to the Liverpool hot seat seemed almost too obvious.”

    Huh? “few murmurs of discontent”? You’re obviously not referring to LFC supporters, who were at best overwhelmingly underwhelmed at Woy’s appointment at the time, and at worst (c.f. Paul Tomkins as an articulate example) pointed out why they saw it as deeply flawed – all before LFC had ever played one game with Woy at the helm.

    But if you mean the English punditocracy, agreed. And the rest of what you wrote seems spot on.

    As for Dalglish – things can hardly get worse than they were already … and we can be sure of at least improvements over past form, beyond any doubt:

    The team will not be set up sitting deep passively inviting pressure in an effort to avoid losing; and, partly as a result, the crowd will be fully and vocally behind the team, which can make a difference to performances at home. Given recent history, I’ll happily start with that, and build from there …

  11. Gus Keri says:

    Again and again and again..
    A refereeing controversy in Old Traford.

    I just don’t understand why all the English referees are scared of a Scotsman.

    Howard Webb, the same referee who let so much physical aggressiveness from the Dutch team in the World Cup finale, even allowed a horse kick to Alonso’s chest, suddenly became a defender of the beautiful game.

    Scientists should now study why Man Utd players are dropping like Arkansas birds in Liverpool area.

    It might be a blessing for Dalglish, becasue the fans and the press will focus on the referee and not on him. This will give him more time to settle and focus on saving Liverpool league season.

  12. Gus Keri says:


    I agree that the talents’ level has dropped in the last two years but I don’t think it’s worthy of a bottom half finish. At worst, it’s at Europa league position’s level now.
    Few factors led to the decline of Liverpool these two years:
    1- Of course, the unavailability of money to adequately compensate for top players led to the exit of very important players. The loss of Alonso, in my opinion, is a huge one and the team has not recovered from it yet.
    2- The frequent injuries to Gerrard and Torres in the last two years, without equally capable replacements, hurt the team’s fortune.
    3- The managers played a very strong role in this decline. Rafa’s last year was filled with discontent, anger and frustration that led to his mis-management of the team. Hodgson was incapable of handling the pressure of managing a big team. The greatness of a coach is measured by his ability to bring the best out of his players. It’s what led to Liverpool winning the UEFA champions league in Rafa’s first year. I believe Dalglish has the ability to produce the best performance out of his players. I might be wrong, but at least we will have 5 months to fins out.
    4- Liverpool got caught in a veciuos downward cycle. The best way to break out of it is by adding feel good factor and this is the best aspect of hiring Dalglish.

  13. Dean Kriellaars says:

    Gus brilliantly states …
    “Man Utd players are dropping like Arkansas birds in Liverpool area”
    “frequent injuries to Gerrard and Torres”

    Players are more than assets, and good coaches approach the team in this way. When coaches treat the players as people, and also as assets then you get the best results. When coaches select unsuitable tactics beyond the physical capabilities of players you create high injury risk. Also coaches need to invest in the players physical development for performance and injury prevention.

  14. Ursusarctos says:


    Considering that almost all of Torres’ injuries over the past 3 seasons have come on international duty with Spain …

  15. Rossoneri Red Devil says:

    “6,000 Liverpool fans believed that staying away would rid the club of Roy Hodgson while they did not believe similar action would have been effective in ridding the club of hated-owners Gillett and Hicks. How warped is that?”

    Great point Bobby. It reminds me of DT’s rant about season ticket owners at Old Trafford “protesting” ownership by wearing green and yellow scarves, while simultaneously handing them thousands of pounds every season.

  16. John Bladen says:


    Hodgson certainly didn’t get enough time to “fix” LFC’s problems (some of which will take a very long time to rectify). No matter, the fans have spoken… and we all know how successful football clubs that make decisions via fan vote are.

    It remains to be seen whether Dalglish’s twitter wisdom will translate into a successful (or lengthy) spell this time ’round.

    RE: Benitez, he actually spent a great deal on transfers during his tenure at LFC. I read a summary of spending about 18 mos ago and Rafa was up there with the other big clubs until his last season in charge. Yes, much of this was financed by selling off prized assets (who, it must be said, wanted to go anyway… it’s not like these were solely financial moves – it was ‘get something before they leave for nothing’), but the fact is he had money to spend.

    The problem is that he wasted it on players who were never likely to succeed in the rough and tumble EPL. Every manager misjudges talent at some point. But Rafa’s list of failures from 2007-2010 is remarkable.

    Yes, the ownership debacle hurt the club, obviously. But to give Rafa a free pass for the club’s failure isn’t reasonable. He inherited a very good squad, tinkered with it and won trophies with them. All good. But when it came to replacing assets over the next 5 years or so, RB failed miserably.

  17. Ursusarctos says:


    “[Rafa] inherited a very good squad …”

    Do you really know nothing at all about LFC circa 2004, or are you taking the piss?

  18. John Bladen says:

    URS: You might want to adjust your tone if you expect (civil) responses. You do realize how playing the heavy while hiding behind a fake screen name looks, right?

    Houllier Lg finishes 2000-2004 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 5th, 4th
    Won FA Cup, UEFA cup title

    Benitez Lg finishes 2005-2009 5th, 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 2nd
    Won 1 FA cup and CL title

    You do know who Gerard Houllier is, don’t you?

  19. Arshavin and a Brasilian ... Pretty Smooth says:

    This is coming from an Arsenal fan. I believe Rafa did a brilliant job with what was afforded him. LFC has to remember this is not the decade of the 1980s any more. Glory for LFC is largely a thing of the past. Let’s look at what Rafa brought you:

    Fact: He won one UCL title (with smoke and mirrors).

    Fact: He brought LFC a runners’ up in another UCL (again, with smoke and mirrors).

    If the venerable KD can replicate this with LFC in the next twenty years then I swear I will become a Tibetan monk. Fact.

  20. John Bladen says:


    I agree that LFC is no longer a top 5 club. With new financial rules coming, they may not be for a long time (they don’t have the revenue generation ability that their main rivals have absent a new facility).

    As for Rafa, he did achieve significant wins at the club. I would never argue that. We disagree about how much of that was down to him and how much to the team. What can’t be argued is that his later signings were expensive failures.

    I doubt Dalglish can bring LFC back to the top.

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