Kop Talk: Yeah, Royyyyy!

July 5, 2010

(Pardon my absence,  folks: I’ve been mourning the heart-stomping defeat of Ghana. But, I’m back now. You can step away from the ledge.)

Like the lot of you, the World Cup has consumed most of my being since June 11. After a slow start to the tournament, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that it hasn’t turned into one of the most exhilarating World Cups in a while. That said, it’s been easy to get wrapped up in all the drama in South Africa and forget about the non-World Cup side of football.

But despite all the international excitement, it’s hard to ignore the headline, “Roy Hodgson takes over at Anfield,” which is why it’s more than necessary I squeeze a Kop Talk in amidst all the World Cup fever.

When the rumors were swirling around that Mr. Hodgson may replace Rafa Benitez at the helm of Liverpool, I was skeptical. Even when it became official I still wasn’t sure he was the right man for the job, and here’s why.

I was afraid the signing was largely based on Hodgson’s dream run with Fulham this past year to the Europa League finals. While I’d never shake a stick at a run to a European final, I was of the opinion that Fulham’s journey there seemed so spectacular in light of their own expectations.

When Liverpool were in the semi-finals of the same tournament, most of the Reds’ faithful were shrugging and saying, “We’ll win this thing – though, we should still be in the Champions League.” That’s because a mammoth club like Liverpool expects that much. It seemed that Fulham, inversely, were stoked to to be there because, no disrespect, they’re a much less prestigious club that doesn’t find themselves in European football too often.

I was afraid that Europa League run wasn’t at all expected, so it seemed dazzling in the eyes of the Fulham faithful and the managerial staff at Liverpool alike. I was afraid the run was being overrated and thus too was Hodgson.

However, after hearing his initial interview as front man at the club, I’ve not only calmed down quite a bit, I’m actually excited to have Roy at the reins. One of the most admirable things about Hodgson is he brings no smoke and mirrors with him. He can always be counted to save the excuses and deliver his honest opinion. Surely this approach can help address some of the teams more pressing problems and get ‘Pool back to their deserved pedestal.

When interviewed, he didn’t showcase some forced, phony abundance of excitement to be appointed Liverpool boss. Not that he isn’t thrilled to be there, but it’s Roy Hodgson – he’s been around the game for a couple years and knows he has a lot of work ahead of him. Instead, he focused on being up front. He called upon the fans to support him in a harmonious effort to get their Reds back to the top of English football.

Maybe most importantly, King Roy (too early?) proclaimed the first item on his long agenda is to keep two guys around you may have heard of – Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. If that doesn’t get the Liverpool masses behind the man, I’m not sure what will. Granted, a lot of work will have to be done to keep the two superstars, but it’s nice to see where his priorities lie.

He’s also already started glancing his way around the transfer market to shore up some holes in the squad that may have been responsible for the team’s seventh place finish last year.

The most calming thing about appointing Hodgson may be his resume. He’s been in the managing business for years and brings an abundance of experience with him to Anfield. While at Fulham, he rescued the Cottagers from certain relegation. The following year he brought them to seventh position on the table and into European competition. And this past year coached them through to the Europa League finals in a season that was highlighted with some high-profile wins including a 3-1 victory of his now very own Liverpool (and 4-1 over Juventus and 3-0 over United, anyone?).

If nothing else, I foresee Hodgson’s experience will provide a stabilizing force at Liverpool, which is something the club needs. Even if the current of the transfer market doesn’t flow our way this summer, I still can’t see Hodgson doing any worse than Benitez last year. I’m not shooting for a “on par with Rafa” year – I think few are – but I think things will only go up with the seasoned Hodgson.

As I put it, I’m completely swept away with World Cup fever; however, I can’t wait for that first kick of the ball in August to not only see how Roy Hodgson fairs as a Liverpool man, but to see what familiar faces are left in the squad.

Until next time, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

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