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 First Impressions

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PostSubject: First Impressions   Wed 7 Jul 2010 - 13:12

BLOOD RED: Roy Hodgson makes an excellent first impression as new Liverpool manager
Jul 3 2010 by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo

BLOOD RED: Roy Hodgson makes an excellent first impression as new Liverpool manager
FIRST impressions last. It might be one of life’s oldest, most-used maxims but, time and again, it rings so true.

Take the foyer of Liverpool’s state-of-the-art training facility at Melwood. Ask anyone who has stepped through the doors for the first time in the past 12 months what their abiding memory is. Invariably the answer will be the same.

Upon setting foot on the welcome mat, your eye is instantly drawn to a gleaming silver trophy, standing tall and proud in a glass cabinet with lights strategically placed to maximise the impact – it is, of course, the European Cup.

If that is not enough, you then find yourself looking at one of Bill Shankly’s most famous quotes; painted carefully on the wall in deep, red paint are words that reverberate again and again.

“Above all, I would like to be remembered as a man who was selfless, who strove and worried so that others could share the glory,” it reads. “Who built up a family of people who could hold their heads up high and say “We are Liverpool.”

Even for a man with almost 35 years experience as a football manager, it struck a chord with Roy Hodgson and stopped him in his tracks; the sentiment behind the message won’t have been lost on him.

It is quite possible to argue, after all, that his is the most significant managerial appointment since TV Williams whisked Shankly in from Huddersfield in 1959, as Liverpool, undoubtedly, stand at a crossroads.

A section of supporters are wondering whether he is the right man to guide the club through these troubled times; though the job he had done at Fulham was commendable, the task he faces here is something completely different.

Debt, finances, investment and internal politics dominate this particular landscape and Liverpool, unfortunately, have become more synonymous with controversy in recent months than anything else

The doubters – sceptical about the process behind his appointment, disillusioned by Rafa Benitez’s departure and bewildered that Kenny Dalglish was not considered for the manager’s role – will have been looking for early signs of weakness.

And nothing, of course, can expose flaws like being interrogated under the glare of spotlights by a curious media, with cameras flashing and questions pouring in; even the slightest slip is seized upon.

Hodgson, however, never put a foot out of place; he spoke with humility and dignity yet exuded an authority to match his clear ambition; aside from that he was realistic without ever sounding defeatist.

Here, clearly, was an intelligent, experienced man, totally at ease with the complicated situation which he had been thrust in to; a man who will provide a steadying influence just when it is needed.

That is unlikely to placate those who yearn for Benitez to still be at the helm, as recollections of those incredible European nights, the miracle of Istanbul and the drama of Cardiff continue to burn bright in the memory.

Those adventures, coupled with his empathy for supporters and the affinity he has for the city, ensures his place in Liverpool’s history will never be forgotten; don’t think be fooled into thinking his six-year reign was full of failure.

It wasn’t. Aside from making Champions League football the norm and masterminding two of the greatest cup victories in the club’s history, he also brought a number of outstanding players to Anfield.

But he is now in charge of Inter Milan and the time has come to move on; Liverpool are not a club like Newcastle, where the fate of managers can be determined before a ball has been kicked, and Hodgson deserves patience and support.

Expectations for what he can hope to achieve in his first season might be different to those of previous incumbents – that a title-challenge is not being considered by the masses shows how things have slipped – but don’t think he will settle for mediocrity.

The first impression Hodgson made on Thursday, you see, was that he won’t stand any messing nor will he rest easy just because he has landed “the biggest job in club football” – if he gets help, support and unity, there might be hope for Liverpool yet.

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