A step back or a step forward for the mighty reds? Kenny Dalglish is back at Liverpool and wears the Anfield suit far more easily than the ill-fitting Roy Hodgson. Liverpool is the pool of life. Welcome to IBWM Matt Savage.
Sigmund Freud famously once said of the Irish: “This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever”. To stereotype a country is lazy and does too many an injustice, but such things do tend to permeate with good reason, so given the inexorable links – via trade, immigration and religion - between the city of Liverpool and the country that forced Freud to admit defeat, in one particular pursuit, it would perhaps, have been of no surprise to him that, in 1987, some residents of Liverpool erected a statue of Carl Jung, his most vehement critic; where Freud was the father of the organised mind, Jung had a heartfelt, spiritual accent to his works.
Marginalised by Thatcher, but a city that has historically benefited from an eclectic mix of minorities - genuinely oppressed, even in recent eras - it would, perhaps, be no surprise if something of a persecution complex does pervade within parts of Liverpool. The comparative successes of their traditional rivals from Manchester [United] cannot have helped.
Liverpudlians have been accused of being regularly contrary, consistently reactionary, often provocative, prone to paranoia and cynical but, as Rafa Benitez would attest, show the heartbeat of Liverpool your values; loyalty, desire and the passion for the fight; and they will reciprocate with patience, support, humour and a defence of admirable vigour.
So, where the combination of the Jungian archetype Shankly and Liverpool FC seemed to have been one conceived in heaven, at least to supporters of the club; the union with Roy Hodgson appeared to have been tarnished forever, for a vocal minority, by a conception under the hellish reign of Gillett and Hicks, forever associated with their apocryphal era of mediocrity and failure, deemed to be in the Managing Director, Christian Purslow’s, pocket, given the inference over Joe Cole’s signing.
Hodgson: Southern; speaker of five languages (no easy task for an Englishman); with the distant, measured air of a politician; the recent manager of Fulham; and incontrovertibly more a Freudian than a Jungian; if ever a fate seemed pre-ordained, it was that Roy Hodgson would fail at Liverpool.
But even so, given the uncertain parameters within which Hodgson was to operate upon his appointment, even the city’s revered Jung would surely have deemed the treatment towards the reigning League Manager of the Year, by some, as a classic case of displacement.
With a hard-core, fringe element able to cut loose on the internet and employing an equivalent of guerrilla tactics, both inside and outside the ground - the treatment that Paul Konchesky received was spiteful even before “Facebook night” and the player was a stick with which to beat the manager - their ultimate desire was always, if not to subvert the majority irrevocably to their cause, to test Hodgson’s mettle; and in truth, he was found wanting.
Hodgson’s reaction to Sir Alex Ferguson’s slight on Fernando Torres was too apathetic for too many and lost him much sway; since then, results became increasingly poor with any positive ones isolated; the Dane, Christian Poulsen was an absurd signing; but, most disconcertingly, the team selections become haphazard and without discernible logic.
It seems likely that in an age of social networking, forums, gifs and almost omnipotent media coverage the prevailing image of Roy Hodgson’s tenure as Liverpool manager will be his actions on the touchline during the fixture with Newcastle United. To see an eminently decent man demonstrate such stress was something only comedians would take solace in but from that night - without a resurrection of biblical proportions - the ever-increasing minority appeared to have succeeded in achieving the result they craved: the nose would be cut-off and if necessary, the face briefly spited.
Roy Hodgson was unfortunate, in that, the same fans most vociferous in voicing their disgruntlement at his appointment were predominantly the same ones who never wanted Rafa Benitez removed from his post. Hodgson seemed to sum up the media who, this minority felt, had prevaricated too determinedly over the Spaniard's failings - and despite a performance at Inter that reiterated some of these, if not his grim attempt at transforming Liverpool’s infrastructure in his own image - there remain some fans who would still welcome Benitez back into the bosom.
With attendances falling, results worsening and defeat at their rivals United [in the FA Cup] perhaps deemed inevitable, Roy Hodgson was relieved of his duties. It had been a matter of time; many ex-Liverpool players voiced their support for the club’s then manager, but the eulogies retained the air of an unused substitute being awarded “Most improved player” by the management of a children’s Sunday league team. Most significantly, where Hodgson’s future was concerned, whilst silence is reputedly golden, the silence of one particular Scotsman did seem increasingly deadly. It was no surprise when Kenny Dalglish was appointed in lieu.
Liverpool’s problems, though, were deeper than just Hodgson’s unsuitability and the shifting-sands of the club’s ownership; some major players were letting the club down even before this season, for example and not least, Fernando Torres, who has been lacking in application for almost ten months and most worryingly, appears to be overweight, unfit. He more than any other player, must step-up to the plate, proving that he retains the same desire he showed upon his arrival at the club; if not, he will remain a £30million albatross, relying on a combination of his past glories and the limitations of others, to obscure his own shortcomings. Despite the inevitable posturing to the contrary, a sale may be best for both parties.
Glenn Johnson is another high-earner [£90,000 a week] who has to show an aptitude for the fight ahead; £16million worth of right back and yet to contribute positively to any team's defending. A self-proclaimed fan of The Inbetweeners; Johnson has for too long displayed all the defensive positioning and tactical awareness of Laurel or Hardy. It is time for the England right back to prove his willing to learn, to accept the flaws, to take responsibility, to grow-up.
Whether Dalglish will retain the manager’s job on a permanent basis, is obviously unanswerable for now, as it will be determined by results, at least in some regard, but he has the absolute support of the Red part of the city; and the addition of Steve Clarke, as first-team coach, is a constructive move.
Liverpool’s future will invariably depend upon the owner’s [New England Sports Ventures] ability and determination to succeed; on the funds available, ostensibly; and, although it remains an exaggeration to describe the club as a sleeping giant - sleeping giants don’t win a European Cup [or derivatives thereof] within the last six years or reach the final twice in succession – with Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur ahead in the current pecking-order, there still remain some testing-times ahead, you feel.
You can read more from Matt at his blog.