I recently received an e-mail by an influential member of the Liverpool support, Graham Agg, containing a link to the Liverpool Echo in which he was quoted before the Blackpool debacle as saying that Liverpool FC should immediately rectify their monumental mistake in appointing Roy Hodgson and replace him with Kenny Dalglish – this after seven games of the season. The fact that he said this before the game gave great credibility to his quotes after.
I was surprised to read this from Graham having met him in Liverpool a few years ago with Alan Jackson and the BBC Radio Merseyside team and being always impressed by his efforts to establish and grow the link between LFC and Borussia Moenchengladbach. He is a regular member of the football phone in show in Liverpool, chairman of the German reds branch, is well respected and is often quoted in the local and national press in England about all matters LFC – as a voice of the fans.
This comes on the back of the turbulent few weeks that have seen Liverpool plummet into the relegation zone, after a series of woeful league displays together with the calamitous exit of the League cup to Northampton Town of the old 4th Division – this cup being widely seen as our greatest chance of success this season. After the Blackpool result and the chants of ‘Dalglish’ by the Kop towards the end of the game, we now have fans of LFC openly calling for immediate and direct action.
The question as to why LFC fans have arrived so soon at the point of changing the manager and why we have seemingly shed the unique make up of what it means to be a red is not immediately easy to answer. You could say the answer is obvious and is that we are in the bottom three and out the cup which is difficult to argue against. You could also add that Roy Hodgson’s biggest achievement was finishing mid table and getting to a Europa league final with a modest team, forgetting the season before when he escaped relegation on the last day, but it may go deeper than that in the fans psyche. It is entirely plausible that the current distaste stems from the departure of the former manager, a man still revered by a large contingent of the reds fans – Rafa Benitez.
Last season a divide was created in the fan base and is one that still simmers. It was the fans for and against Rafa and for anyone who cared to read the letters from the Liverpool Echo and other fan sites and for those with an ear in the City it was impossible to miss. Pick your side and nail your colours to the mast. This is not the time to debate the reign of Rafa but the fact that he departed (and Purslow’s and Benitez both gave their versions last week as to how it was handled) caused a lot of upset to a lot of people.
Roy Hodgson, the current Premier Manager of the year was the early and obvious replacement. The club is to be sold and was (and is) in a state of civil war with the fan base divided. A ‘steady pair of hands’ as chairman Broughton put it was required to sail the good ship Liverpool through the stormy waters – certainly until new owners are found. Kenny Dalglish – charged with assisting Christian Purslow (the man who was recently labelled by Benitez as knowing nothing about the game along with Broughton) looked at the shortlist and left unimpressed, advised the board to appoint himself instead. The fans loved this idea, steeped in nostalgia, thinking back to the heady days of the late eighties and our last championship (won by Kenny) in 1990. The board however has other ideas for Kenny, ideas which involve him being an integral part of the club for years to come and not as a day to day manager in the short term. This together with the fact that he has not been in a managerial role since he replaced John Barnes at Celtic in 2000 meant he was ruled out.
So Hodgson got the job and LFC fans either agreed under the circumstances (Deschamps, Redknapp and Rijkaard were either uninterested or unavailable), or remained silent at least. Now to the present day.
To have the fans questioning the appointment of the manager so openly after seven games together with the recent insults from certain sections of the fans and so called fan websites to members of the Liverpool board is distasteful and unwelcome – very un-Liverpool like.
Liverpool’s fans have long been known as ‘the most knowledgeable’ and fair, with traditions developed over the last 50 years still evident today. At every game you will see the Kop applaud the opposition goalkeeper as he run’s to guard the Kop goal – every keeper. I remember being part of the crowd that stayed to a man to applaud Blackburn and Arsenal off the pitch after they had secured the league title at Anfield. For anyone who witnessed the Arsenal triumph in 89 and what had preceded it that year that gesture was breathtaking. You can also go back to ovations given to the great Leeds side and the famous Benfica after securing impressive victories at Anfield and even as recently as last Saturday the Kop afforded an ovation to Blackpool followed by Holloway talking warmly of Liverpool afterwards.
Liverpool fans are known and respected throughout the world for their sportsmanship and often sing about being “the famous kopites”. We should remember that and pass it on.
There was a man called Bobby Wilcox who travelled everywhere to watch the reds with his plastic bag. Not much else, but he went to watch and support his team – anywhere and everywhere – never missed a game until he died last year of cancer. Carragher said that if Shankly was the best manager, Kenny the best player then Bobby was the best supporter. He upheld and pushed the meaning of what it meant to be a red and to support your team – not just with mindless noise, but in the unique Liverpool way. He led the way with the lads in the Albert pub behind the Kop and on the road, even arranging his own tours to away games to make sure that groups stayed together. Some Liverpool fans have forgotten what it means to be a true red and to back the team – no matter what – and as Bobby said if you can’t manage that then stay away until you can. We did it last season, we did it during the Souness years and we must do it now.
Whether Roy Hodgson is the best man for the job remains to be seen. Giving opinions in the pub is one thing but having a platform and then going public is entirely different be it as a respected voice like Graham Agg in the press or the Kop on match-day. Now is not the time for open warfare on the manager and players. Now is the time to stand behind the team and give it all we’ve got as standing together is the only way we’ll move forwards.