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Hodgson calls for fan support as decisions loom for Henry
When New England Sports Ventures finally bought Liverpool in October new owner John W Henry did not have to wait long to understand the enormity of the challenge he faces to turn around the fortunes of England’s most successful club.
Just days after the deal was clinched and a wave of optimism swept through Anfield, Liverpool’s inadequacies on the pitch were laid bare in a 2-0 defeat at Merseyside rivals Everton.
More than two months later manager Roy Hodgson, recruited by the former regime, has managed no semblance of an improvement on the pitch and his call for the Anfield faithful to show his team their “famous support” is likely to be seen as a backhanded compliment at best.
So as the transfer window starts to creak open, the so far quiet Henry will find himself in the spotlight with some important decisions to make.
The Boston Red Sox owner was careful not to raise expectations too high when he took charge of the Anfield club, stating that there was much hard work to be done and no quick fixes, but he must be alarmed at quite how far Liverpool have slid.
Manager Roy Hodgson’s verdict after losing 1-0 at home to bottom club Wolves on Wednesday was damning in its honesty. “We probably didn’t deserve to lose,” Hodgson told the BBC with no hint of irony. “Probably 0-0 would have been fair.”
Goalless draws at home to clubs like Wolves are not what fans of Liverpool have come to expect and there are clear indications that the Kop has run out of patience with the experienced Englishman who appears bereft of ideas at present.
But what are the options for Henry?
The Boston Red Sox owner has no previous experience in the wheeling and dealing of the Premier League’s transfer market and while he will leave the player-spotting to the experts on the club’s staff it will be his call to release funds or hold fire until the summer when major rebuilding could begin.
Hodgson was already installed as manager when Henry completed his deal to oust George Gillett and Tom Hicks and therefore the American would not lose face by firing him and starting afresh, though there has been no hint that such a move is on the cards.
Martin O’Neill and former Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard are among the big names being talked about as potential successors. Kenny Dalglish would be popular with the fans, given his playing and managerial exploits at the club and there have even been rumblings of a return for Rafa Benitez after his ill-fated stint at Inter Milan was cut short. Owen Coyle of Bolton Wanderers has a growing reputation too, should Henry want an up-and-coming British coach.
Liverpool has never been a club quick to sack managers, however, and Henry may opt to give Hodgson more time and give him at least one transfer window to try and model the team to his liking.
However, January transfer windows are not the calmest of markets to operate in and with Liverpool’s current plight they are not exactly in a strong bargaining position.
In reality, if Hodgson is jettisoned any new manager would struggle to rebuild the squad in January alone, although some new ideas and a more dynamic approach could get more from the few world class players at the club’s disposal.
Hodgson’s body language, and his spoken language for that matter, are hardly offering much hope right now. Might another poor performance at home to Bolton Wanderers on New Year’s Day force Henry’s hand?
PHOTO: Wolverhampton Wanderers’ manager Mick McCarthy (R) instructs his team as his Liverpool counterpart Roy Hodgson watches during their Premier League match at Anfield, December 29, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble