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Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011

PREMIER REPORT

Liverpool faithful want Dalglish back


LONDON — Those of us who do not follow Liverpool could never truly understand the blind loyalty supporters showed Rafa Benitez until he was fired at the end of last season. Similarly, the level of vitriol and antagonism suffered by Roy Hodgson from the Anfield faithful leaves outsiders perplexed.

Christopher Davies

It is difficult to remember the supporters turning on another Liverpool manager as they have Hodgson. John W. Henry and New England Sports Ventures who took over the club six months ago will no doubt be swayed by fan power, which can be the most unbeatable of enemies.

"Hodgson for England" chanted the Kop as Liverpool slumped to an embarrassing 1-0 home defeat by Wolves on Wednesday. It took the crowd six months to sing Hodgson's name and then it was in derision.

Henry has been supportive of his manager, so far, but knows the supporters will not let up until "King" Kenny Dalglish, currently a Liverpool ambassador, is put in charge.

The American, welcomed by fans when he took over the club, will not want that feel-good factor to evaporate. No one likes giving in to mob rule but on Planet Football there are times when there is little alternative.

Hodgson is a dead man walking.

The fact that Dalglish has not managed in the Premier League since leaving Newcastle in 1998 is irrelevant to Liverpool supporters who remember the three league titles he brought to Anfield as manager.

To non-Koppites 13 years is a long time to be away from the front line, but the season ticket holders don't care, such is their dislike of Hodgson.

Last season Hodgson was the Manager of the Year, having led Fulham to the Europa League final where it lost to Atletico Madrid. In many respects, Hodgson was the best man a fading European force could reasonably have expected.

He took over from Benitez at a time when the club was in turmoil with the ownership in the balance, there was chaos behind the scenes, the futures of Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina in doubt. It's hard to think of anyone who could have come in to that backdrop and moved Liverpool forward.

But the fans never gave Hodgson a chance. They never wanted him in the first place, they wanted Dalglish, and their stance will not change. It is a matter of when rather than if Hodgson is shown the Anfield door.

The loss to Wolves left the Reds just three points above the drop zone, and the last time they went into a new year with such a low points total it was the start of 1954 and they were relegated.

Few blame the players, the finger is pointed only at Hodgson, who said he tries to ignore the Kop chants. The Liverpool ownership are unlikely to not to listen, and the supporters will no doubt have their way.

* * * * *

THE PRESSURE on Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti eased after the labored 1-0 win over Bolton. Not that anyone should have doubted the Italian even in the wake of six games without a win.

Ancelotti is one of only two of six managers to survive an entire season since Abramovich took control in 2003, Jose Mourinho being the other. Loyalty and trust are qualities the Russian has not always shown to his staff, and Chelsea's poor run brought the inevitable questions about whether Abramovich would pull the trigger again.

Last season Ancelotti led the Blues to the double and they were off the blocks like Usain Bolt last August. But in the minds of some, the Italian had suddenly become a poor manager and should be re placed. It is a farcical, misguided, brainless view fueled, it must be said, by sections of the media.

No one becomes a good manager in six weeks — ditto bad.

Thankfully, word is that Abramovich is not going to replace Ancelotti, in fact he will allow the manager to strengthen the squad during the January transfer window with an experienced center-back to cover for the injured Alex the priority.

Despite ending the year in fourth place, four points behind leader Manchester United, Chelsea is far from firing on all cylinders. The long absence of the now fit again Frank Lampard hasn't helped, Didier Drogba has lost his cutting edge after a bout of malaria, and Nicolas Anelka has almost forgotten what it's like to score.

As the second half of the season gets under way it would be foolish to write off the champions, who have the skill, experience and managerial knowledge to push United all the way.

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for theLondon Daily Telegraph.


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