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Heroes and Villains

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I hated the things he said, I hated his insistence on outdated tactics, and I hated his inability to accept an ounce of personal responsibility, but all those failings were the personal flaws of a desperate man in over his head. And yes, I suppose I hated that he became a kind of symbol as the last remnant of the previous owners' legacy, too, but then that could hardly be his own fault. For what he could control, it turned out that when things got rough, Roy Hodgson turned first to that which had served him well in the past, and only hid himself more deeply amongst the familiar as the situation worsened. After all, when you feel that events have completely gotten away from you, it is only natural to fall back on the known and seek external causes to avoid feeling that the situation you find yourself in is hopeless--everybody does it, and he was no different. For all that beforehand he might have told himself that he was getting into one of the biggest, most pressure-filled managerial jobs in English or European or even world football, the reality was always going to be something that couldn't be fully prepared for beforehand.

In the end, Roy Hodgson simply didn't have it in him to manage Liverpool Football Club, and make no mistake, with his constantly changing stories to the press and slavish adherence to tactics that wouldn't have suited Liverpool the last time Dalglish was in charge, along with his need to hold ever more desperately to the familiar as the situation deteriorated, he would never have become the right man to manage the club he rather surprisingly found himself in charge of. All the time in the world never would have changed that, because the negatives that come with managing a club like Liverpool--that added pressure, the media microscope, and all the added expectations--are inseparable from the positives. Some may have it in them already to do the job, or may possess the ability to learn quickly without falling back on unsuitable convention, but some--most--quite clearly will not be up to the task.

There is certainly considerable room to find fault in Roy Hodgson's various actions while manager, but it isn't his fault that he wasn't up to the task. It was the fault of Christian Purslow, the self-proclaimed fan in over his head on the football side of things but so full of bullish bluster and a banker's belief that he likely never had a second thought about any of his many poor decisions. He was a man handing out record bonuses while the markets crashed, busy playing Football Manager in real life and so sure of his personal exceptionalism that he just knew signing good old English Joe Cole to a massive wage packet and then shoving Aquilani towards Juventus for a sizable loss was a brilliant move. And while he was at this lark of running a football club, well, he and Jamie Carragher and Danny Murphy all agreed that Liverpool needed to return to English roots that had never really existed, and he was certain that airlifting London's favourite manager and England's next head coach in to save the day would be a masterstroke.

Roy Hodgson, for all that I disliked--and even at times hated--him as manager, does not deserve much of the vitriol he has received on a personal level. Hating the job he did and the things he said, and realising that keeping him on and backing him with funds to rebuild the club in his own image as it were would only have made things worse in the long run, is one thing. But you would have taken the job if it was offered, and so would I, and we all would have been woefully unprepared for its demands. The real blame lies with the people who brought him in, Liverpool's own Glory of '66 clique that would likely nod along to everything said by Andy Gray or Gary Birtles, businessmen with the footballing sense of your average TalkSPORT caller and footballers inevitably more concerned with their own futures with the club and playing in their preferred positions than the future of the club as a whole. It started with the sacking of Rafa Benitez, ended with a lucrative and quite ridiculous contract extension for Jamie Carragher in the final hour before ownership of the club changed hands, and in-between saw a string of monumentally stupid football decisions taken. Roy Hodgson's appointment was only the most prominent, and that it came even while better (though foreign) candidates remained on the market was hardly his own fault

So hate Roy Hodgson's time spent as manager. Hate the job he did and his ham-handed press conferences. Hate that he not only never really understood the club or its fans, but that he appeared to make very little effort to learn. But more personal hatred is foolish and misplaced. There's a former managing director--and Football Manager superstar--who deserves most of that, for bringing Hodgson in amongst a slew of horrendous decisions. Not to mention there are a number of others who will likely still go down as Liverpool legends who by all accounts played a massive role in Rafa's ousting and Roy arriving, and they will likely continue to have their names sung on match-day by people who would meanwhile yammer on about Woy this and Woy that and isn't he just a right cunt who tried to kill our club, the bastard.

There's no need to hate him now that he's gone, now that he's no longer manager of Liverpool Football Club, because that was the only role for which there was ever any justification to hate the man. He was the wrong man for the job, and he was always the wrong man for the job, but he's gone now. It should be enough to be happy that he is gone, and to hope that the club can now, finally, make a clean break from the Hicks and Gillett era.