When Rafa Benitez was edging painfully towards the Anfield trap door, esteemed journalist Dion Fanning wrote that his Liverpool tenure would one day be seen as a golden era. Even allowing for Klopp’s recent Red resurgence, that assessment of Benitez’s tenure still holds true today.
When Hodgson was Liverpool manager, there was no need for crystal balls or periods of reflection. It was a nightmare for many Liverpool fans before he showed up at the Shankly Gates, then during and after. If braving the eye of the Hodgson storm (ironic since a sprinkling of advocates said he was brought in to “steady the ship”) wasn’t bad enough, the imprint thereafter of his name on a list of the Reds’ former managers is a stain on the club’s managerial heritage. Graeme Souness and Brendan Rodgers had armies of critics but respectively, had a glorious playing career or a wondrous season to Make us Dream; colouring lasting perception.
Roy’s football was appalling and results suitably dire, but his manner was worse. Tetchy and insulting towards the local press pack, dismissive and condescending with supporters who were fighting a war against Tom Hicks and George Gillett to save the football club, and a headbanger (literally) in the dug-out, Hodgson was a Scouse antichrist in every sense. For every time we rubbed our eyes in disbelief Hodgson rubbed his face.
Deferential to our nemesis, but his “great friend, Sir Alex” Ferguson and quoting “The Great Mourinho”, an obnoxious Liverpool rival, to excuse his own failings, playing up the merits of no-mark opponents and signing the likes of journeyman Christian Poulsen and park footballer, Paul Konchesky were ingredients of a poisonous London brew. At the heart of it all, Roy had no empathy with Liverpool FC and its people. Even if thought of trying, he just couldn’t help being Hodgson.
At Crystal Palace, our opponents on Monday night, Hodgson has re-found his mid-ranking niche. Croydon born, he’s now managing his home town club; probably the team he supported as a boy. To be fair to him, he’s doing alright as well; last season’s 11th place a minor miracle after the Eagles lost their first seven matches. Last weekend, as he stood on Fulham’s Craven Cottage touchline, bestriding another homely former workplace, a whiff in his nostrils of a dirty Thames on a West London summer breeze, old Roy – donning that immovable, comically–lacquered barnet – was the proverbial pig in muck.
A comfortable 2-0 win to get Palace motoring is a warning to Liverpool. Going to Selhurst Park is never easy. Wilfred Zaha is a dangerman, the type of player with pace to burn to trouble Liverpool back lines pre-Virgil Van Dijk. Home teams in front of fired up crowds always have their moments and it could be an evening for Alisson Becker to show £67M worth of mettle.
At night, the rhythms and beats of the Palace ultras are amplified and of course, Hodgson will want to put one over on us. You can almost picture Roy etching “victory over the Scousers and the German” on his cherished CV on Tuesday morning.
Don’t give him what he craves, Reds. Slay the old sod and his willing, dutiful London lads on his own cockney manor. Liverpool, with a showreel of high-scoring away wins under Klopp are well capable of putting Palace to the sword and making it six out six. That’s the standard the Reds must aspire too. The days of respectable draws on the road are gone. Manchester City set a points standard last season and this year’s benchmark – even for top four places – won’t be much altered.
Liverpool, with eight days rest are likely to remain unchanged, save for the midfield claims of Jordan Henderson, his Duracell battery on constant charge, or possibly Fabinho. If anyone misses out, it will be Gini Wijnaldum who is never quite as assured away from home. James Milner, imperious last weekend in the 4-0 win over West Ham has to remain in situ. With the regular penalty-taker slot still confused “Jimmy” always lays a claim, regardless of his longevity and cerebral class.
It’s a must win, already. Jurgen knows that, and he’ll know too his direct South London foe is forever a scalp for us Reds.
*Odds subject to change