7 January ~ Although Roy Hodgson is still Liverpool manager at the time of writing, there now hangs a grim inevitability over his position – with, it seems, everybody in football convinced that his remaining time is numbered in days rather than months. And after the manner of his side's latest capitulation – at the hands of a Blackburn team missing eight senior players – even those who had been appealing for clemency on his behalf must surely now admit that the time has come for a change.
I was one of those who suggested earlier in the season, as disquiet first began to rumble, that Hodgson should be given more time to settle in. I was in favour of his appointment, having liked him for a while – it was hard not to during his time at Fulham, especially after he gave Jamie Redknapp a public dressing-down for the latter's small-minded comments about Scandinavian football.
Those who now claim vociferously that he should never have been given the job in the first place forget just how few serious candidates there were for it in the summer, the position having been rendered toxic by the ongoing ownership saga. They also overlook the fact that the task at hand seemed perfectly suited to his temperament and proven skills. Here was a calm, erudite man who would steady the ship during difficult times, and – more importantly – get the most out of an underperforming squad at a time when seriously strengthening it was not an option.
Here, though, would lie the key to Hodgson's failure. It's not simply that he was unable to match the performances of his predecessors, or turn the club into title challengers once more. It's that he turned out not to be able to fulfil the remit he himself had been hired under, as the methods applied at Fulham simply haven't translated to the environment and circumstances at Liverpool.
He proved unable – or unwilling – to adapt his tactical style once it became apparent that it didn't suit the players in front of him, or his interview style once it became apparent that many fans considered his apologetic lowering of expectations a continual embarrassment. Even the bright spots of his tenure have been tainted by baffling decisions – signing Raul Meireles to bolster the central midfield looked like a masterstroke, which makes his repeated deployment on the right wing all the more infuriating. As each brief upswing in fortune – as in the case of the recent win over Bolton – is followed by a step even further back, it becomes clear that a rescue mission simply isn't going to happen on his watch.
It's a deeply saddening situation all round, as what should have been Hodgson's finest hour instead looks set to destroy his reputation. He hasn't become a bad manager overnight, but will in all likelihood be remembered as one after this, even if he does go on to take another job more suited to his style, which in itself isn't a given considering his age. He shouldn't be pilloried for taking the job when it became available – and nor should the previous owners really be labelled idiotic for thinking he could do it – it's simply unfortunate that he turned out to be so horrendously ill suited to it. Regrettably, the only way to solve this error now is to recognise it, and correct it. It may not be “the Liverpool way” to sack a manager mid-season, but right now it feels like the kindest action for all concerned. Seb Patrick