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The Liverpool owners’ decision to use this weekend’s break for the FA Cup as a chance to sit back and ponder the club’s future under Roy Hodgson is a rare patient act in the hasty world of soccer but it might not end up doing the manager any favours.
The Anfield club, just four points clear of the Premier League relegation zone, face rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford in the third round of the Cup on Sunday after another week of speculation and supporter unrest surrounding Hodgson’s future.
Even with the ‘magic’ of the FA Cup, a win against league leaders United seems unlikely on current form, and a defeat to their bitter rivals who could field a slightly weakened side, would only rub salt into already very sore wounds on Merseyside.
A defeat to United does not go down well even when Liverpool are fighting for the title or Champions League places, but when they are faltering in mid-table, a loss would add further ammunition to the club’s unhappy fans.
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.
The festive season is upon us but, just like turkeys, Premier League managers will be getting a bit twitchy after two of their brotherhood fell to the axe in the past week.
The fact that both victims were ruthlessly dispatched with their sides doing reasonably well will only add to the sense of trepidation.
After Newcastle United chalked up their biggest home win over local rivals Sunderland for more than half a century in October, crushing their biggest rivals 5-1, the first question manager Chris Hughton was asked was whether he thought the victory had made his job safe.
Such is the quicksand that the north-east club has been built on in recent years that even a result that once would have warmed their fans through the coldest of north-east winters proved only a short-term reprieve for an honest, straightforward, likeable and successful manager.
Football fans are very forgiving types – if my football club were a person I’d have stopped speaking to it a long time ago.
Pretend for a minute you are Manchester United and Wayne Rooney is your best mate. He swears undying loyalty to you – it’s a friendship that will last forever. Then suddenly he tells you you’re basically not good enough for him and that you should get lost.
Former Chelsea midfielder Tony Cascarino must be in the running for an award for biggest over-reaction by a football pundit.
Cascarino told Sky Sports that Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti is now fighting to hang on to his job, after the Blues lost two out of their last three games, including a particularly humiliating 3-0 defeat by Sunderland at the weekend.
I blame the late, great Keith Weller of Leicester City.
He started the trend for “cold-weather clothing” when he pulled on a pair of white tights one winter’s day in the 1970s.
He did not know it at the time, but that began the wimpish drift towards gloves, hats and now the ridiculous snoods, or neck warmers, being worn by the likes of Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, and most fetchingly, Marouane Chamakh of Arsenal in the last few weeks.
Lucas Leiva has often been dismissed as a mediocre battler with little or no star quality, but the much-maligned midfielder’s performance against Chelsea marked him out as an influential part of Liverpool’s recent recovery.
Few players have attracted as much ire as the combative Brazilian who was reportedly close to strolling out the Anfield exit door during the summer with a host of European also-rans touted as a possible destination.
American billionaire Robert Rich Jr, the 488th richest man in the world, can buy just about anything he wants to from private jets to diamonds, mansions to ocean-going liners and everything in between.
But this week it emerged that he has put some of his vast fortune at the disposal of a tiny, impoverished minor league English club by the name of Bedlington Terriers.
England performed well below expectation at the World Cup in South Africa and judging by the FIFA Ballon d’Or list announced on Tuesday the stock of the Premier League is not at its highest either.
Just three players from the league that likes to call itself the best in the world are on the list and it would be a huge surprise if any of them made it into the top three: