IT’s never good to start a piece of work when you know that soon, possibly within minutes of it being published, great swathes of the populous will rain down harsh criticism and hatred.
Yet I fully expect that soon I will be persona non grata. People will cross the road to avoid me. Eye contact will be non existent which is a shame, frankly, because my eyes are my best feature.
I’m on the cusp of finding out how it feels to be Roy Hodgson.
‘Hi Roy! Nice eyes’.
Some people in my position might pussyfoot their way around this thing. Dip their toes lightly into the boiling spume. But I am no innocent bather. For me, nothing less than a dive bomb into the rapids.
Is that enough watery analogies? ‘Roy? Is it’?
And yet, and yet…..even now I find myself hesitating. For I know what awaits me at the end of these pages. But I have to do it. I need to do it. As a great song-smith once said;
‘Stand by me my apprentice.
So here goes. And come with us on this one. Me and Roy.
What if K…….OK wait. Before I get into this too deeply, I’d just like to take a minute or two to talk about some of my favourite charities. We could also have a run through of anything you’d like to talk about. I’m good like that. I’m fairly sure we could wax lyrical about a whole range of fun and interesting topics that would be far less damaging to any reputation I thought I had, than this.
Oh sod it. Be brave.
What if Kenny Dalglish isn’t the right man for the job?
What if all the marvellous sentiment, admiration and love for him masks deeper wounds in the months and years to come?
And, importantly, just what sort of position might John Henry and Tom Werner find themselves in when it’s clear the situation is past repair?
Like all good stories, let’s start at the beginning. Regardless of who was operating as FSG’s right hand man during the sale process and indeed in its aftermath, Henry and Werner aren’t stupid. They’re shrewd businessmen, sports fanatics who like to win. And to make money. I mean let’s not kid ourselves that they bought Liverpool to make a once proud institution great again. I’m sure there’s a small part of that that registers with them. But the bottom line is always the important one in business and this bottom line says that they did it to make money. That’s what shrewd businessmen do. Hell, that’s what bad businessmen do. You only have to ask Tom and George about that.
They came from the Lone Star State to make a little coin but by the end of it, they fell in the proverbial hole in the ground. Although I would at this stage like to make it clear that it wasn’t a hole in the ground in Stanley Park in which work had began some 60 days after the ink was dry on their paperwork.
Not that hole.
Their reign was littered with the sorts of mistakes that only perennially bad businessmen make.
‘Hi Roy. What do you think of my eyes?’
When Miami Dolphins CEO Mike Dee handed John Henry the sales prospectus for the club on a flight in 2008, Henry, after his initial shock didn’t just think about the possible victories, but about the possible Benjamin’s. Drive up revenues through judicious spending? Or get more for less?
“Uh, oh we have enough headaches’. This seemed like a lot of work”
That’s how Henry explained his initial reaction. Which is business code for; “How much is this going to cost me and how much can we make?”. Listen, I’m not criticising his motives. In terms of ownership he’s been everything and more that I hoped. And I don’t think I’m alone in that opinion. What I am trying to do is add some context to what might come later.
That I mentioned.
When Henry and Werner took over the Boston Red Sox in February of 2002 it took them one day to fire Dan Duquette as GM and eight days to fire the incumbent team manager Joe Kerrigan. It took them 85 interminable days for them to relieve Roy Hodgson of his duties. During that time, the beleagured one lost six times, won six times and drew once. Given the ruthless streak shown by the owners when they took over the Red Sox, it’s still a surprise that they allowed Hodgson to ramble on for so long. You can make a very valid argument that unlike in baseball they had no real clue about what they were dealing with and so rather than make any rash decisions, they wanted to take stock of the situation and work out the lay of the land for themselves. The aforementioned right hand man – let’s call him Chris Durslow – certainly wanted to save face and indeed his job by advising the new men that Hodgson, his appointment, was the right man.
But the real reason? The real reason is that John Henry and Tom Werner didn’t want Kenny Dalglish as the manager.
OK, let me put it a different way because that probably stung a little. They may well have wanted to replace Hodgson but they felt they didn’t have the right man ready to go. Dalglish was there. They’d dealt with him on a number of occasions. But they didn’t feel he was their man. It took 85 days for them to realise that Dalglish was their man. How that manifested itself only those closest to the owners will truly know. Whether they warmed more to Kenny and cooled with Durslow is anyone’s guess (in case you missed it, and many will have done due to the remarkable job I did of hiding his name, Durslow is actually Christian Purslow).
‘Hey Roy. Surprise!’
Whether they felt that they wanted someone – anyone – but Roy is again open to interpretation. Or whether Billy Beane’s masterplan simply prohibited them from looking at a 50 year old who hadn’t managed for a decade. Perhaps they had a younger manager lined up but he couldn’t get out of his contract mid season and they simply couldn’t allow the Hodgson debacle to derail what had to that point been a bright start for them.
This of course is all conjecture on my part. But don’t be surprised if the truth is somewhere close to the surface. Regardless, they can’t have failed to have been impressed with the way the club, the players and the fans became galvanised during the early stages of Kenny’s reign and as time has worn on and that spirit has continued, their decision to install him and indeed support him financially looks a solid decision. But shrewd businessmen do shrewd things. They forecast and plan ahead. If you stand still you get left behind. Henry and Werner want return on their investment both in the club and more recently in the playing staff. Look where we are……back at the Benjamin’s. Of course Dalglish needs time and his signings need time. But how long is enough time? And will the fans over-protect him if things start to go wrong? And if they do start to go wrong, just how could the owners come out of it as anything less than the bad guys if they were to fire Kenny?
These are questions they must have asked themselves.
When Dalglish was given his three year deal no caveats were released to the press. There was no stones to turn looking for answers to questions we’d at least considered once. The lines were there and what’s between them is the truth; do the job well, buy good players, win trophies and therefore turn a profit and three years will become more years. Do some of the above and the three years may be all she wrote. Do none and the above and we have issues.
Potentially big ones.
Dropped points at home against teams like Norwich and Swansea aren’t going to endear you to an ownership for whom you weren’t the first choice regardless of how much we praise the promoted sides for their pluck and pretty football. Missed chances, possession and the amount of ground covered by Charlie Adam only mean something if you’re camped out in the back of Andy Townsend’s tactics truck. If you’re not then all you really care about is the bottom line.
Like pounds (or dollars) they’re invaluable. And you get them both through winning.
Don’t you Roy.
Not by dropping points. Not by having your major financial investments play so poorly that all of a sudden second guessing is easier than supporting. Second guessing over tactics, over team selection, over substitutions, over purchases and sales.
And over the manager.
None of this looks good. It’s a monumental football cliché, up there with all the other monumental football clichés but if you don’t score you don’t win and in the annals of history, 300 shots on goal means nothing if the same amount of balls end up in your net as they did in theirs. You like that cliché? You want another? OK……Roy Hodgson has 36 years of managerial experience.
Oh wait…..wrong cliché.
Found it……football is a totally different game to what it was even a decade ago. And it bears almost no resemblance to the one played during the era of say Bill Shankly. I mean, there’s still 22 players kicking an old ball around a grassy field. And you still have to get said ball in the goal. That’s not changed. But what’s changed beyond recognition is the money involved, the pressure on managers, shareholders, fickle fans, sack the board, the Sports Direct.com SuperMegaGeordieDome. You don’t get 10 years to mould a team these days. Some managers don’t even get 10 minutes. Some don’t even deserve that long.
Someone tweeted me a valid point about Shanks discussing the merits of Roger Hunt missing so many chances. ‘At least he was in the position to miss said chances’ opined the great man, or words to that effect. A modern manager says that about his £35 million pound striker and it’s straight to the Priory.
Or West Brom.
Don’t get me wrong, things are OK at Anfield at the moment. But they’re not great. In fact they’re a long way from great. But they’re OK. The owners, already dealing with turmoil on the home front with the Red Sox are having to issue words of encouragement about the role of Mr Comolli. This was never in the script. At least not at this stage. But it’s still OK. Therefore, I would, after one thousand six hundred and five words, like to make clear that I want Kenny to succeed. I’m not calling for anyone’s head or hoping that he’s sacked, et cetera. Just so we understand each other. I would never do that where a Liverpool manager was concerned.
“Are you still wearing those headphones I asked you to put on Roy?”
But I digress. This isn’t about wanting a change, of course it isn’t. It’s more about facing up to a problem that I’m pretty certain Messrs Henry and Werner have considered; if it all goes tits up, how on earth do we remove the King from the Castle? We may well go on a winning streak the like of which has never been seen before. We may see Andy Carroll scoring like there’s no tomorrow, Stewart Downing performing like a man possessed and Charlie Adam just performing. If that happens then let’s rejoice for many reasons. One of which will be that after a decade of being essentially a one man team – hi Steve – we won’t be committing the cardinal sin of relying on another player to carry the can for the rest – hi Luis. Kenny will be safe, fans will be happy and idiots like me think of other nonsense to write.
However, in the a far flung land called Unpopular Decisions, FSG may have to breach the walls of the very capital city at some stage down the road, especially if the inconsistency, the dropped points and the underwhelming performances from big money purchases prevails. I hope they’re prepared.
Don’t you Roy?