Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Gloomy Uncle Roy And The Shame Of The Premier League

This article has been deliberately delayed in order to offer a sober assessment of the situation at Liverpool. The problems at Liverpool are systemic and deep and the problems are both on and off the field. The first section deals with whether Hodgson should remain as manager. The second looks at how the Premier League failed Liverpool FC since the Hicks and Gillett takeover.

Should Liverpool Keep Hodgson?

Put simply, yes. Uncle Woy was a solid choice after Benitez and he remains so. With a very influential manager leaving, coming off the back of a poor season and a squad in transition a steadying hand was needed. Hodgson is able to provide this. The horrific start is the fault of the players more than the manager.

The current debate in the papers and on internet forums is whether Benitez should have gone and if Hodgson should have succeeded him. Frankly its irrelevant by now. Arresting the Merseyside slide seems an impossible task given how the team is playing. Jonathan (SP) Wilson noted in Sports Illustrated how woeful Liverpool’s defending was against Blackpool. The space the visitors found in the opposing half was inexcusable. That isn’t something a manager should have to contend with at this level. Every player in that side has played at senior international level. Even with no manager Poulsen, Meireles and Gerrard should know to cover that danger zone.

Hodgson’s successes haven’t come in big footballing countries. He won the Swedish league with Halmstads and then Malmo FF, followed much later by the Danish title at Copenhagen. To ridicule, as many have these achievements because they weren’t done at big clubs is to miss the point. Hodgson has been around the footballing block and deserves respect, something that the players at Liverpool seem to not be giving him. What Uncle Woy brings is a solid shape and organised team, something Liverpool crave right now. The system and training methods may be repetitive and boring but they took Fulham to a Europa League final beating Juventus on the way. That wasn’t a fluke. If the system works for Fulham it can work as well for Liverpool if the players let it. The players don’t seem to want to pull together for the man.

The current body language of the team suggests not only a team in free-fall, but one that cannot summon up the will to change that situation. On the one hand it’s the job of the manager to motivate the team but Benitez hardly came across as a great man-manager, he barely registered as competent in that department and yet the team worked like dogs for him. Secondly sheer professional pride should come into play. It might be sad if some of these players aren’t good enough to wear the shirt of Liverpool. It’s far worse if they simply don’t care.

This is a team which badly needs to return to the basics in terms of defending and organisation. The job of Hodgson is to stop the rot and, given time and more crucially the good-will of the players, he is more than capable of doing so. He has made some errors tactically, most notably against Manchester City but he has inherited a squad that seems to have already given up. This blog was delayed after the Blackpool defeat because I wanted to think properly about whether Hodgson does deserve to keep his job. It’s not a popular view and it’s not the easier answer but Roy needs to be retained and the players need to give him the respect and hunger they showed to Rafa Benitez.

Who Do We Blame For The Financial Meltdown?

The easiest target would be Hicks and Gillett. Of course they are disgusting parasites which need to be removed before Liverpool can begin to heal. But the real problem is that they were allowed to take over in the first place. The Premier League has been shameful in its silence over the way the Americans loaned money to buy the club then loaded that very debt onto the club, crippling it for the foreseeable future, at least until another rich boy comes along wanting his new toy.

In a video released by the “Spirit of Shankly” supporters branch one Liverpool fan claims “it was never about the club, it was about money, it was about profit, it was about greed.” Well...yes. Of course it was. Tom Hicks and George Gillett had never shown an interest in football in their entire lives until they took over Liverpool. What did people expect? They’re bastards but frankly we should never have expected anything better from them. The Premier League on the other hand is supposed to give a damn about the state of the game. It is reasonable to expect it to try and safeguard our clubs against these parasites. Their role in the farce has been largely ignored. Scudamore et al need to be named and shamed for what is happening to Liverpool and Manchester United.

The fit and proper test has already passed noted human rights abuser Thaksin Shinawatra. So if those who abuse human rights are allowed to own clubs, what exactly is the test for then? Why to safeguard the economic future of our clubs of course. Great! So why were Hicks and Gillett allowed to unleash their full incompetence at one of our most historic clubs? If the Thai dictator didn’t constitute and unfit and improper person and neither do Hicks and Gillett, loading debt onto the club as they did exactly who is the FA preventing from owning clubs here? You don’t need ethics, you don’t need to a “football man” and you don’t seem to even have the money to buy the club.

A little bit of ethical thinking would go a long way in modern football but even if we grudgingly accept that that is not what we’re here to judge our owners on can we at least say that buying the club with money you do not have is frankly insane? The FA is here to protect the game. They have failed time and again, not just since 1992 but ever since football in this country has become professional. They need to own up to these failings before another Liverpool situation is allowed to happen.

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