Roy needs results to turn Reds around
ESPN analyst Kevin Keegan is one of English football's most respected figures and he will be writing for ESPNsoccernet throughout the season. As a player, Kevin represented Liverpool with distinction, winning numerous titles in domestic and European football, and was twice named European Footballer of the Year during his time at Hamburg. Kevin has managed England, Newcastle United, Manchester City and Fulham and is one of the most respected voices in the English game.
Roy Hodgson has struggled to meet the increased level of expectation that comes with managing a club the size of Liverpool, and even though he has plenty of valid excuses, the only thing that will lead Liverpool and Roy through their current troubles is results. Actions will have to speak louder than words over the next few months.
There is no doubt that Roy Hodgson has had a very difficult job to do at Liverpool. After all, the club was in chaos when he went there because of the ownership problem. But the fans have been on his back when chanting Kenny Dalglish's name - most recently in the defeat to Stoke City last weekend - and that is very difficult to hear for a manager. Roy will have to deal with that and accept it.
The situation at Anfield is undoubtedly complex. Kenny said he wanted to replace Rafa Benitez over the summer and for whatever reason he was passed over for the job by the board. A legend amongst the fans, he now remains at the club and his shadow looms large. Roy is an experienced manager but at big clubs you are exposed to a wider range of pressures than you would be at a club like Fulham. He may have been disappointed to hear the chants but fans are entitled to do what they want - they have paid their money. Supporters will have their say and you cannot put words in their mouth.
What you must do is win the fans over and that is the job of everyone at Liverpool FC. It starts with the owners and it runs through to Roy. The only way he can improve his standing in the long term is to secure positive results. That is how he became a favourite of Fulham fans, but what constitutes a good result at Fulham is not always the same as at Anfield. Fulham's level of expectation is lower, and managing Liverpool is another ball game entirely.
The lack of ambition shown by Liverpool on the pitch this season has also been a little bit surprising. You can't just blame Roy Hodgson - they have had this problem for a few years - but the same problems are persisting. Under Benitez they played two defensive midfielders in Javier Mascherano and Lucas, and Hodgson has replaced Mascherano with Christian Poulsen. These players are capable of winning the ball but they are not particularly gifted in terms of creativity. While Gerrard can obviously provide chances for Torres, the other important outlet is Glen Johnson and it looks as though he has had a falling out with Roy Hodgson. Liverpool's best players are up front, Gerrard and Fernando Torres, and they are the match-winners so you shouldn't have any fear in supporting them with positive players if possible.
Liverpool have a whole catalogue of players who are not any better than the ones they have replaced - they are similar players, just with different names. The Liverpool squad is full of average Premier League performers, and below average in some cases. As such, I don't foresee a terrific season ahead for my former club. Not even the most fanatical Liverpool fan is looking at finishing in the top four this season - it isn't going to happen. By Liverpool's standards they are in turmoil, and they are a long way from where they want to be, but they will still finish fairly high up the league and the fans will keep behind them, even if they will be disgruntled at times, because that's what Liverpool fans do.
|“||What you mustn't do as an international manager is damage players for their clubs ”|
|Keegan on Gerrard|
Roy will need his best players fit over the season but we learned on Thursday that Gerrard will be sidelined for up to a month having sustained an injury when representing England against France. The news infuriated Liverpool's medical team, and what you mustn't do as an international manager is damage players for their clubs because they will make it difficult for you in future. The demands of club and international football do not fit hand-in-hand - when I was manager of Newcastle I would have 15 players travelling all over the world and you would be concerned about the condition they would return in - but when they are picked for England, they are England players.
The manager has to handle them how he thinks fit and as England manager you cannot satisfy everyone. If Sir Alex Ferguson rings you up and asks you not to play his player for more than 60 minutes then the next thing you know is that Liverpool hear that and make similar demands. It is farcical. If they are deemed to be fit then clubs shouldn't have any say in it, but it is a very complex and difficult situation.