Here we are. A labour of love. Well, not love. Most definitely not love. But a labour.
This is my friend Ben Johnson’s (@benjanijohnson on Twitter) Hodge File. It isn’t definitive. He only started maintaining it when he realised exactly what we were dealing with when Hodgey opened his mouth. It goes from 12th November 2010 onwards. Considering that he wasn’t in a job two months later you’d think there wouldn’t be much. You’d be wrong. 6,819 words when we get into it. 6,819 words. We hope we have everything. Maybe we don’t.
So here it is, in all its glory. Do see it as what it is – a disorganised primary source, not a honed (insofar as mine ever are) blog piece. Apologies for the unattributed nature. If any journalists are concerned by their lack of credit for being Boswell to Dr Hodgson then do let me know. I suspect this is mostly press conference fayre but I am more than happy to remove or credit accordingly. They are dated as they were published, not as and when they were uttered.
They aren’t all funny. Some are rather sad and unexpectedly endearing read together and with a bit of distance. They aren’t all daft. Some do contain insight. They certainly aren’t concise. But they are all here – there may even be a bit of repetition but maybe The Hodge repeated himself.
So make of it what you will and enjoy if you can. The Hodge, ladies and gentlemen…
“His introduction secured the point at least because he was very good when he came on,” Hodgson said. “He didn’t miss a pass and won several challenges. That’s what he was on there to do and he will get better. Without his introduction, with a very tired Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt, who knows we could even have lost the game”
(Hodgey on Poulsen 12/11/10)
Sometimes you can be winning and you think your defending is fine and your attacking is good but really it might be quite poor. You can then lose and after you’ve re-analysed, you see it’s not bad.
“You would have to ask him the question: ‘Do you think you’re playing at top form and are you playing like the best right-back in the country for your club?’ If he says yes obviously we will have to agree to differ and if he says no, then you’d have to ask the question: ‘Why not?’”
(Hodgey on Glen Johnson 12/11/10)
“Against Napoli he was guilty of too much honesty,”
(Hodgey on Poulsen, 12/11/10)
“They’ve got a very difficult style to play against. We did our best to deal with it but they got the goal that was required. Our forwards would have had to do a little bit more for us than they were able to do if we were going to get anything out of the game.
“I don’t want to be seen to be making cheap excuses. We lost to a strong team who out-battled us in certain occasions.”
(Hodgey on Stoke, 13/11/10)
“That seems to be part of the life as Liverpool football manager.We’re trying do the best job we can in the circumstances but I don’t think that that singing helps. But I didn’t hear it and I am sure there are lots of fans who sympathise with us and what we are trying to do.”
(Hodgey on Kenny chants, 13/11/10)
“I’m obviously sad that a good run’s come to an end. It was always going to be a tough task because it’s a battle and I always knew we’d be hard pushed to win that battle but I thought we did okay in the first half.”
(Hodgey on Stoke, 13/11/10)
“But I can only congratulate Stoke on their victory. They have a very difficult style of play and we did our best to deal with it, but they got the goal which was required. The second goal was really a result of me throwing caution to the wind by bringing a couple of forwards on.”
(Hodgey on throwing caution to the wind, 13/11/10)
“I don’t want to be seen to be making excuses. We lost to a strong team, they outbattled us on certain occasions, but we know that. Our midfield is not a battling midfield. With Raul Mereiles and Maxi Rodriguez we don’t have big boys in there but they are battling to be fair so I will take that back.”
(Hodgey on battling, 13/11/10)
“He’s a certain type of player, he’s doing okay, He’s had moments when he’s looked good, others when not quite so. He’s working on his game. He featured in that unfortunate Northampton game. It’s a fact of life that it was a great opportunity for those outside the first 13 or 14 to really show me ‘you should be thinking of me,’ but of course the only ones to come out with any credit were Soto and Shelvey. When will he get a chance again? Probably in one of these games in Europe and who knows, maybe he will burst back on to the scene, but it’s very difficult to do that in a reserve game.”
(Hodgey on Northampton & Pacheco, 20/11/10)
“We will probably have to change tactically, especially in the absence of Lucas and Jay spearing. These are possible replacements for Steven and we will have to reconsider our options. Having said that there is very little difference between playing 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and 4-2-4. Often the differences are what sort of positional play the players adopt on the field and how much they are prepared to leave those positions and create space. We’ve done quite a lot of work on that. People may describe the formation differently but I’m still hoping we’ll cause the same problems to defences by the movements from the midfield players and those in the forward positions.”
(Hodgey on the lack of difference between formations, 20/11/10)
“There are two games this year which have done us untold damage. The first was when a total reserve team – although it does not seem to have been noticed we had 14 first-team players who didn’t play – lost to Northampton in the Carling Cup. The other was the disastrous (2-1) defeat to Blackpool at the end of a three-match week when we played in Europe. Those two defeats were costly for us because they encouraged people to make bold conclusions but we’ve lost one defeat in eight”
(Hodgey on defeat, 20/11/10)
We have to learn to live with that these days, I’m afraid, when I first went to Switzerland in the early 1990s we used to watch French football and I was astounded by how often a team was booed off at half-time if it was losing or the cat-calls that came at the end. I remember saying to my wife: ‘That wouldn’t happen in England.’ Here at Anfield in particular I remember seeing away teams applauded off after winning, which may have been a one-off, but today all of that has gone out of the window.”
(Hodgey, a couple of weeks after a victorious Blackpool were clapped off at Anfield. 21/11/10)
“I do have sympathy,” said Hodgson. “It’s not easy when you are watching your team play and you don’t see where a goal is going to come from but you can see your team conceding a lot more. It’s a very unpleasant situation.”
“There are still a lot of things to do but what pleased me against West Ham was the shape, discipline and organisation of the team, he said. If we can keep that going with the quality of players we have got we can have a good season. Don’t ask me what a good season is because I don’t know but after the start we have had where we are now is making us feel pretty pleased”
(Hodgey on a good season, 23/11/10)
“One defeat in eight is a good run at any stage of the season. We have to be happy with that but we are not stupid,” Hodgson said. “We know that if you go to Tottenham it could be two defeats in nine but, if we can play like this, we can make sure Tottenham don’t have a cakewalk and, if we can keep Fernando Torres and David Ngog firing, we may spring a surprise. Wins are hard to come by against the top teams and today we have got to admit that Tottenham are a top team.”
(Hodgey on surprises 26/11/10)
“He can definitely play as a left midfielder.“When we re-signed him we were thinking we needed two good left-backs at the club and that he’d be competing for one of those places in the team, but I saw him do very well in Trabzonspor when he moved up into midfield, and he tells me that when he was in Valencia he played in midfield very often.”
(Hodgey on Fab, 26/11/10)
“We’ve not been a lucky team so far, whatever we’ve got we’ve had to battle for. I don’t think mentality comes into it. Against Stoke we had done well against them until they scored the goal. Then we took the game to them and conceded a second and everyone thinks the team played badly and were battered. I believe if we continue to play the way we did against West Ham we may get one or two but it is the level of performance which counts. Results determine everything and people look at the results and then judge the performance.
“I have to judge the performance sometimes when we win and say ‘That was not very good and we could do better’ and sometimes when we lose I have to look at it and say it was a bad result but not as bad as all that.”
(Hodgey on performances Vs results, 26/11/10)
“He’s been doing quite well. He had a little down period which I suppose coincided with the unfortunate Northampton game, when every one of the young players was thrown in together, He stuck at his task and in training he’s been doing very well. In the last couple of reserve games he’s played very well too. It’s nice to know he’s still very much a part of the Liverpool future. He’s unlucky in the position he plays, just behind the striker or in a wide role. That’s probably where we have most competition at the club right now. For a young player it’s not easy to knock the likes of Joe Cole, Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez off their perch.
“Having said that, we still believe in him. We think he’s a good player and he’s got a very bright future. Of course there’ll be lots of other clubs out there who want to take him but if he really wants to be at the top level he might be well advised to keep learning his trade with these sorts of people around him, rather than to become a bigger fish at a smaller club. I’m sure he’ll be in the squad for the Europa League next week. I can’t guarantee he will start but that’s certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility because he has done well enough recently to force his way back to our attention.”
(Hodgey on Pacheco, 26/11/10)
“I’ve had several bad experiences, “Even at Halmstad in the 70s, in the year we won our second championship, it took until the second half of the season to win our first game away and that broke a record going back two seasons. We went over two seasons without winning an away game, which is quite strange for a team that won the league in ’76 and again in ’79.”
(Hodgey on away games, 27/11/10)
“It could be the type of players you have, I don’t know.”
(Hodgey on away games, 27/11/10)
“It might also be to do with mentality and maybe there is an underlying sense that a point away from home is enough because we will win at home.”
(Hodgey on away games, 27/11/10)
“Harry will be a major candidate and it doesn’t surprise me that he wants it because it is the pinnacle of everyone’s ambition. Harry is doing well at the moment but you have to see who is doing well when the job becomes available.”
(Hodgey on England managers post, 27/11/10)
“It’ll be a cracking game of football. No doubt we’ll find ourselves on TV again. We seem to be on TV every week, so I better get my make-up ready.”
(Hodgey on make-up, 28/11/10)
“We’ve been working together for four months. Everyone I know in football respects the job I’m doing here and aren’t too surprised it hasn’t been an easy start. In fact, 95 per cent would have predicted it as [Jose] Mourinho did. ‘Liverpool will get worse and worse’ is what he said and if the great man Mourinho says it, I don’t know why you don’t quote him!”
(Hodgey on the Great Man, 29/11/10)
Perhaps being a leader means you push other players into a non-leadership position. This is a chance for someone to stand up and be counted. Poulsen did it against Napoli. Maybe he can do it again.”
(Hodgey on leaders, 2/12/10)
“We’re one point behind the top of a middle group but there are still five or six teams way above us, I think even Tottenham are six points above us if I’m not mistaken not to mention the teams above them.
“Six points doesn’t sound a lot but in this league at the end of the season, six points is going to separate an enormous amount of clubs so I still do think we’ve got an awful lot to do.
“I’m not trying to dampen enthusiasm, I’m not trying to dampen expectations, I’m just trying to be 100% realistic.”
(Hodgey on expectations, 09/12/10)
“Going out and splashing a load of money on players who may or may not be the ones for us in the future might not just be the right way.”
“It’s a long time since my wife was pregnant and my son was born. I’m not sure I can cast my mind back that long but I can half imagine what it must be like.”
(Hodgey on the birth of his son, 11/12/10)
“Our away form continues to be very, very poor and it’s something we need to do something about. If we’d played the whole of 90 minutes as we played the first 45 minutes maybe I wouldn’t be as disappointed as I am. For a team that wants to be in the top half of the table, our away form is not good enough.”
(Hodgey on ambition, 13/12/10)
“It doesn’t bother me because I can’t do more than I am doing, I can’t work harder, I can’t work better. I have great confidence in my ability, I don’t think there is any reason not to have. I know the players are working as hard as they can to win matches for Liverpool and therefore me as manager. But if you have situations like last night when you have phone-ins to the owners you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know how that is going to go because we are not top of the league. Had we been top of the league it might have been different but we are not, we are ninth and we are Liverpool Football Club. You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to work out more people will be unhappy with that than are happy with it.”
“Because basically speaking unless there is a major inflow of cash into the club and the team is going to be changed from one moment to the next then whoever takes my place will be doing a similar job with similar players. The owners have made it perfectly clear they are in it for the long term and they are going to be patient; they realise it is going to take time.
“They realise we can’t turn things around overnight and they also realise that the team I am working with is not the team I put together. You don’t turn things around overnight and they are aware of the magnitude of the task but they are very focused on what needs to be done and I am convinced they will help me get it done.”
(Hodgey on what needs to be done, 14/12/10)
“I’ve said to Fernando – and this doesn’t need to be a secret – that we believe he’s a very fine player, one of the best front players in Europe, and the fact that maybe he hasn’t played at his level over the past couple of months doesn’t change that.
“You don’t become a bad player overnight. But don’t forget, goalkeepers and strikers in particular play on such a small margin of error.
“The difference between being carried down the high street in a Sedan chair, or being vilified is infinitesimal. I’m hoping it will go well for him against Utrecht. I am hoping that he’ll have a good game that will improve his confidence. He’s happy to play and he wants to play, so it would be foolish of me to not use him. There’s nothing to lose.”
(Hodgey on Torres, 14/12/10)
“I had a change of heart. I was seriously considering giving him a start but I had a talk with our fitness people and they convinced me it may not be the wisest move.”
(Hodgey on Torres, 15/12/10)
“I did honestly think it was a good thing. I didn’t mean to mislead you.
“The physical conditioning people said to me that in any game there is a risk of injury.”
(Hodgey on the chance of injury, 15/12/10)
“With discussions with the conditioning people in particular, they persuaded me to see the error of my ways even though I had this vision of Fernando going out there and having a great 45 minutes and maybe scoring a goal and giving him a lift, He was quite looking forward to playing but when I got back to the club in the afternoon and started to talk about it again it seemed to me the potential disadvantages far outweighed the potential advantages.”
(Hodgey on Torres’ omission, 15/12/10)
“We have already qualified and, if he played, he would be taking the place of a young player who needs the chance to stake his place in the team. And of course it would be very bad for us if he picked up an injury. The same applied to Pepe Reina. They made me see sense, I listened to the reason around me and I changed my mind. I am a bit sad that, unintentionally, I tricked some supporters and a few journalists.”
“I was seriously thinking he might get 45 minutes and that would be good for his confidence,” Perhaps he doesn’t need the confidence boost. That is one of the things I was raking my conscience about. I was looking at his (first) 50 Liverpool goals the other day and they are quite incredible. I am hoping, by making the decision I did, we will see him come to light in the Premier League on Saturday.”
(Hodgey on Torres, again. 15/12/10)
“He’s training hard. He trains every day. There’s no days off for Steven. He’s desperate to get back but with my recent history of saying things and then not getting them right,
I think I should be extremely cagey and say I’ve got no idea if he’ll be there or not, we’ll wait and see, et cetera, et cetera. There’ll be no more bold statements from me on any player at least for the foreseeable future.”
(Hodgey on saying things and then not getting them right, 16/12/10)
“Whenever we old-fashioned football coaches see a player bombing up and down in straight lines, running without any problems and looking as fit as a fiddle, we immediately think he should be thrust into the next game.”
(Hodgey on Torres, again. 16/12/10)
“Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say your first thought wasn’t the wisest. I had two choices. To stubbornly go ahead with playing Fernando Torres or admit that after a sleepless night I’d realised it was a stupid decision and get a bit of egg on my face.”
(Hodgey on Torres, again. 16/12/10)
“He’s a quality player and we will be working hard on our tactics to make sure he doesn’t dominate the game.”
(Hodgey on Danny Murphy, 18/12/10)
“I could not identify with a lot of things that happened on the pitch.”
“So to really call it my team, I would have had to make a slightly bigger impact on those who have been brought in. I am more than happy to take responsibility for this squad but it takes a coach more than five or six months to make his stamp on a club. I am hoping we will do some good business in transfer windows to come and then I will be able say, ‘If you don’t like it then I have no one to blame but myself’.”
“I would plead for patience really. Of course we want Liverpool to be the Liverpool of old. We want to be up there every year competing in the Champions League. But we might have to accept that it will take us more than a few months. That would be a small price to pay if you get it right. You only have to look at teams who have tried to stay in the league or get into the top four. Clubs have virtually been destroyed by people making bad decisions. It’s not because the owners haven’t given money or supported the manager. It’s just that they have brought in the wrong people.”
(Hodgey on how to destroy a football club, 21/12/10)
“Some will say he’s unlucky because he’s not playing in the right position but I don’t have any truck with that, Joe is a midfield player, and what’s the right position for a midfield player? Gerrard has played all over midfield for as long as I can remember. I have seen him play left midfield for England, I’ve seen him play centre midfield, as a lone striker, as a second striker, because he is a good football player and knows how to play football. I did, and I hope Joe remembers this, make it clear (in our first discussions) that I couldn’t promise him a certain position. If Joe says, ‘well, I’m not playing in my right position’, then you’d have to ask him what his right position is.
“If he says the only place he can play is behind the striker, then he is limiting his chances of playing here. We also have Gerrard and Meireles who can play in that position, and we also have a situation where at the moment quite often we are playing with two strikers. I would be sad to hear him saying something like that, because he would be suggesting he can’t do what he has done so often in the past for England and Chelsea, which is playing in a different position. “He is training well, it seems to me that his confidence is gradually returning and all Joe needs is a couple of good games or maybe a goal and that could turn things around for him. I have not lost faith in him in any way. He is a good footballer. What I’m saying could be transformed into ‘Hodgson criticises Cole’, but it’s not that. I’m just analysing the situation.
“I was involved in the discussion with him, but the initiative and the desire to take Joe did come from Christian perhaps more so than myself because I wasn’t in the position to say these are the players we should be targeting as I hadn’t been offered the job at that point,“He’s not so much a player I can really take responsibility for. I’d have to share the responsibility for Joe, less so than people like Poulsen, Meireles and Konchesky who are players I was quite happy to bring to the club.”
(Hodgson on Cole, 23/12/10)
“We’re in a position to strike for it (the top four).”We’re a good few points off and a lot people would suggest it’s pie in the sky that we can do it. I don’t think there is such a thing as pie in the sky in football. “Everything is possible and while things are possible we’ll play for them, but we’re realistic and we certainly aren’t making any boasts or promises.” We know the task ahead and that we’ve given ourselves a handicap, but we’ll work as hard as we can to bring in that handicap and do the best job we can.”
(Hodgey on the top four, 23/12/10)
“It was very disappointing. It came in the third game of the week and we’d used a lot of the senior players in the Thursday match of that week as well, so we’d played Sunday – Thursday – Sunday. Unfortunately I think our performance that day reflected that it was our third game in the week. But I’m not trying to take anything away from Blackpool – I thought they beat us fair and square on the day. I’ve seen them play twice live at their stadium since and on both occasions I have been very impressed with them.
“It makes it more obvious to me that the reason they won at Anfield was in no way fluky – it was because they are a good team capable of winning away from home against top teams. They play good football, have a lot of good players and their position in the table is tribute to what they’ve done this season. We’re expecting a tough match and we know they are capable of beating us because they’ve done it already, but we’ve got to try and make certain that we turn the tables on them now.”
(Hodgey on Blackpool, 23/12/10)
“I could do that, but that begs the question of when you get a job like this at Liverpool, should you be working for the long-term good or trying to get an extra result or two for Roy Hodgson? I’d like to think I am big enough and confident enough to take the long-term view even though it might work against me. I would be very disappointed if I went out in January and spent a lot of money on the wrong players and then, come the summer, we are no better off. All we would be doing is adding a few more players who we don’t think are good enough to the roster. I can’t guarantee it won’t happen but it is not my intention.”
“Like everyone else I get really immersed in the subject. I start looking through the eye of the microscope at the miniscule particles of dust, trying to see if there is an atom there. Maybe it is just a bit of dust.”
(Hodgey on physics, 23/12/10)
“Getting job at Liverpool was another major feather in my cap and the fact it hasn’t gone as well as I’d have hoped results-wise is just the nature of football. Maybe what we have realised is there is plenty of work to do here but I am certainly very satisfied with the job I have done here and I don’t feel any dissatisfaction whatsoever.”
“That’s what we have to live with, we have to live with the situation. People are quite happy to see changes on a very regular basis, and a fan will have no qualms about seeing three managers a year at his club, waiting for a man with a magic wand that can turn all of the ills that everyone has seen into something different. ‘Those of us who work in the game and have been working in the game a long time know that magic wands don’t exist. You work with the set of players you find at your club and before you can really say this is a team I put together, this is a club I have fashioned, you’re going to need quite a long time before that day will come around. ‘In the meantime, results give you that time or they might not and you might be in and out before you’ve had a chance to do that.”
“I’m at a club where people expect great things. When we’re nearer the middle of the table than the top, people will suggest, ‘If someone else was here it would be different’. I’m not sure that’s the case. A lot of intelligent people understand that.”
“The club – the players and the staff – dealt with the takeover situation very well. We didn’t use it as an excuse, although I’m not certain we needed it as an excuse because I don’t think we were playing as well at that stage. We have got better as a team with all the work we are putting in and we are getting better but it is results that count.”
“January is the window for agents and journalists. Every day my son scours the newspapers and tells me we’re linked with this player and that player, and a lot of them I can quite honestly say have never been mentioned in any discussions. And yet still in newspapers we’re going to sign them. My message to the fans is to be very sceptical about all the things you read.”
“They are bottom of the league but between position seven and eight and position 20 the points difference is not that great. I don’t really think you can clearly say at the moment ‘these are the bottom teams’. This congestion in the league means we have to be very careful when playing games because you might be playing the bottom team but in three weeks they might be eighth.”
“They got a lucky break and put the ball away so we lose all three points and disappoint our fans yet again.”
“It was a bad day at the office, there was plenty of effort but no end product and the players are very disappointed in there. The fans have left angry and that’s understandable. However, it would be dangerous to clear a lot of players out on the basis of one game. We wanted our renaissance to start today, but it hasn’t happened. Panic would be the wrong thing to do but I’m not the sole arbiter of that.”
“I’m getting used to it, that’s the way it is. I don’t like hearing those things of course because I want to do the best job I can do, I’m working as hard as I can, so I can’t say it’s something I really appreciate but at the same time I am not in control of those things and it’s the Kop’s way, the Anfield way, of showing that they are not happy at the moment with what the team is doing. As the manager, you take responsibility for that, so I have to take that criticism on the chin as well. All I can say is I think it’s time for people to really try to help us along because it’s not through want of trying that we’re not winning matches or didn’t win tonight’s game, it’s because, I’m afraid, we lacked a little bit of quality and lacked a little bit of confidence. The negativity does affect confidence because players are a little bit anxious to get on the ball and do what they can do for fear they’re going to make a mistake.
“I have seen times like this before. My belief I can turn this around is that the belief I have in my own ability and I know the players are working hard and working hard to give success as well as the club, but at the moment they are not succeeding.”
“The famous Anfield support has not really been there ever since I came here. There were the problems with the owners and then with Kenny being such a legend here and not being given the job that was given to me. I do not like to hear those things, but I have had to live with it from the start, and I suppose that is the Kop’s way, Anfield’s way, of showing they are not happy with how things are.
I can only hope the fans become supporters as well because this is a time the club needs support. It is time for people to help us along but that was as bad a team performance as we have given, especially at Anfield.”
“I have been lucky the support I have had has been from the players and within the club. I haven’t had a lot of support from the fans ever since I came here. The fans have not been happy with what they have seen in the whole of 2010 and since I came here we have not won enough games to keep them happy. That is understandable in the sense that they were hoping when I came here the latter part of last season would be forgotten and we would start flying again. That hasn’t happened and as a result, as manager, you are the one in the firing line, but of course it doesn’t make the job easier because it makes the players more nervous.
“I can only say as a manager you have to understand that fans care for their club and want it to do well and when it is not doing well they voice their disapproval. That is the way of football today. When you take on any job, especially a big job like this one, and results don’t go the way people want – especially when you lose games at home – you are going to be a target for disapproval. “I have to accept that and try to keep doing my job and try to improve things for the club and hoping that the results turn around. It is a vicious circle and in order to break it we have to start playing well and winning matches because if we don’t they are going to reserve their support until such time as we can do it.
I think all bad results knock everyone’s confidence but I think I can look [myself] in the mirror. I am trying the best I can do and the group of players I put out there was probably the best XI, apart from Daniel Agger who has been injured long term.
“When I think about it, had I chosen a different team which did not have a midfield of Dirk Kuyt, Lucas Leiva, Steven Gerrard and Raul Meireles, with Fernando Torres and David Ngog up front, I don’t think things would have been different. I fear whatever team I chose the performance would have been the same and that showed when I made the three substitutions and it didn’t alter the level of performance. I don’t think there are many players happy with how they played. I put it down to it being a bad day for us.”
“Nothing’s ever gone but I don’t think it’s right at this moment in time for us to be talking about Champions League qualification. That’s always the ambition of the best part of the teams that are not fighting relegation. That’s their major goal and there’s no reason why a major club like Liverpool should have it as a goal either but of course it’s going to be very difficult.
“Our immediate preoccupation in the next games are, first of all, to get ourselves into that top half of the table and within some sort of touching distance. If we succeed in doing that then maybe the question becomes relevant but it’s not a relevant question for me at this moment in time with the next seven games coming up.
“We need to get ourselves up in the top half of the table and from there hopefully find some form of contact with the top six and maybe make that our goal in the first instance.”If you get yourself up there in that group of clubs, the fourth spot won’t be that far away. But these are pie-in-the-sky notions at this particular moment in time because we’ve got to reverse and buck the trend of the last couple of games and get back to winning ways.”
“After the defeat by Wolves I thought I did quite a good job to disguise the hurt, the sadness and, to some extent, the anger that I was feeling. To take stick from the crowd and then to stand up in a press conference and say I understood and sympathised with them … It is always going to be the case as a manager that when things are going wrong you are going to get that flak, that stick. It is unfortunate for me that fans should think I went into a press conference with a view to attacking them because nothing could be further from the truth.
“Two or three weeks ago we were on a good roll and playing some good football and everything looked so bright and positive. A very good performance at Tottenham, which should have encouraged people, has now become just another defeat. Then we had the last two defeats, against Newcastle and Wolves, which have hurt us very badly and hurt me very badly. It has swung things round enormously and put us in the situation where we find ourselves today. I cannot emphasise enough that it hurts me deeply. It hurts my professional pride. It hurts all the things I believe in to find myself in the situation I am in but I have to accept it. I feel very bad and very down.
“I have the experience but it has been an uphill struggle since I came here. Maybe that was the point I was trying to make [about the famous Anfield support] which has been interpreted as a crack against the fans. I have had a lot of situations to deal with and worked very hard to put together a team that knows what it is doing and can produce winning football. Along the way there have been some very big setbacks which have thrown me into the limelight and the firing line. I accept it as part of taking a job of this stature.
“Last night I saw a quote from Benjamin Disraeli when he became prime minster: ‘I have achieved my goal and climbed to the top of the greasy pole.’ That is really what we do. That is how I feel. Coming to Liverpool for me was a pinnacle; to some extent it was a reward for the work I had put in, not just at Fulham but in the years before. It was a recognition of my competence. You come here hoping you will keep flying forward but, yes, I did know it would be difficult. If we can between now and the end of the season get the results everybody wants, people will respect us more for the hardship we have gone through. It is a cliché but we coaches do need time, patience and support. Support at this club is of vital importance because that is what has made it great through the years – the feeling that Liverpool is a bit special and that people get together when things are not going well.
“It would be nice to have people around you who could help you a bit more but it doesn’t really work that way. It is a lonely job being the manager of a top club. You can’t expect people to help you too much. The staff are very good and supportive – and so too are the players – but your family is the most important during these times. They try to encourage you that life isn’t all doom and gloom and there might be a bright spot somewhere along the way. That is what you have to cling on to.
“Two defeats in a row – and one of them at home against a team you are expected to beat – that is a time when you are going to be very hurt and upset about everything. Lonely is not the wrong word to use because, to be quite honest, you don’t want company anyway. You want to be left alone with your thoughts. They are not pleasant thoughts but you don’t have the desire to do anything other than sit around with them.”
“When you get given the job you climb up to the top of a greasy pole — we all do that — but at least you are on the pole and you have been given the chance. I am on an exceptionally lofty pole because the club is one of the biggest in the world and that is why when you get the job here you are so pleased you are chosen. I will be doing my best during the time I am working here to justify my selection and trying to get the team playing the sort of football we played against Bolton. It was not just against Bolton, I can give you six or seven games where we have played as well as that.
“I can also, with no attempt at modesty, point out we have played 10 difficult games in Europe without even using the bulk of our first-team players and we have reached the last 32 of the Europa League. I still see a lot of things positively and my glass is absolutely half full rather than half empty at the moment. Once you go outside the top five we’re all guilty of the same thing; a good performance followed by a poor one, a lot of the negativity has been somewhat unfounded and I said very early in the season, probably after seven games when we were in the bottom three, that if we can get to 19 games and find ourselves in the top half of the table that would be the best we could hope for.”