July 7, 2010

Roy Hodgson to Bring Back Liverpool Glory Days

Roy Hodgson's mission at Fulham went unfinished. His appointment as manager was Fulham onwer Mohammad Al-Fayed's step towards putting Fulham in the top four of modern English football lore, and Fulham nearly achieved it. Each season under Hodgson got better and better at Craven Cottage, with many players coming into his system and leaving more hardened to the English game. Hodgson is a rare breed of English manager, cut in the light of classic English geniuses who've been classically trained abroad only to return to mother England to gain their share of fame.

Hodgson played non-league in England, but started off managing Swedish teams. In his wild career, he's managed no fewer than 15 teams, including the likes of Malmo, Internazionale, and Switzerland. Some of his experiments resulted in failure. Others, like Inter, were successful in not only turning clubs into sharp institutions with an attitude for winning, but also in winning over the admiration and hearts of supporters. In this way, he emulates the greats, men like Bobby Robson, Terry Venables, and Jimmy Hogan. Other than Harry Redknapp and Steve McClaren, calm and prepared men like Hodgson are a dying breed.

I've long followed Clint Dempsey's acquisition and rise to EPL success. He started off as a young, unpolished kid who was streaky and talented, and Hodgson has transformed him into a magnificent mix of hard-nosed English physicality with pure American athletic ability and determination. There's no question why teams like Milan are wanting Dempsey's number. And Dempsey is not the only gem that Hogdson has worked hard to shine. This past season has been a revelation for Bobby Zamora, who had many clamoring for his spot in South Africa. Other's like substitute weapon Erik Nevland have always seemed to be effective when asked by Roy. Whatever it is he does, Roy gets the best out the individual.

Roy's philosophy is hard nosed and simple. It's English at it's most basic. But leave no doubt about the tactical workings behind his owl-y face. He's got the pedigree to go with his tinkerings of all European systems. So, at the very least we can expect Hodgson to change the way Liverpool play. I'm not a big Liverpool supporter by any means, but the way they've played in the past decade has been very Spanish: lone striker, counter-attacking, and bursts of flair. Fulham under Hodgson were exactly opposite this, and when Fulham and Liverpool met, it was a clash of styles but a beautiful sight for sore eyes. So if Hodgson manages to keep players like Gerrard and Kuyt, he immediately has a backbone that he can rely on, much like the Bullard, Davies and Gera that he's called on most recently.

Liverpool have been spiraling out of control recently, and I think the only one with a less enviable job might just be Laurent Blanc. Finances, image, transfers, and form. It's going to take the classic definition of the complete manager, one who handles everything to spec, to bring Liverpool out of the mess they are in. But, even as many are saying that the "big 4" in England are gone and dead, I'm confident that within a couple of years, Hodgson will have Liverpool back near the top. Maybe then he'll help Liverpool to break their wretched domestic ghost.

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