The return of Roy Hodgson – but what reception can he expect
18:02 GMT, 20 April 2012
Sunday will see one of those rare incidents in sport – the return of a former Liverpool manager to the Anfield dugouts.
On the few occasions it has happened in the past, it has always been the subject of great debate. The build-up to Blackburn Rovers visit to Anfield in December 1992, for instance, was all about Kenny Dalglish’s comeback, 18 months after he sensationally quit Liverpool.
When he emerged from the tunnel that afternoon, a posse of cameramen were waiting for him and an explosion of flashbulbs provided a signal to The Kop to give the club’s greatest player an ovation befitting his status.
Friends reunited: Roy Hodgson will be back at Anfield for this first time since being sacked in January last year. He'll be greeted by his replacement, Kenny Dalglish
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A few years later, Graeme Souness –
Dalglish’s successor – came back in charge of Southampton. Given the
acrimonious way his spell as Liverpool boss had ended, the reception was
not as warm as it had been for Dalglish but, as a European Cup
winning-captain of the club, the respect was clearly there.
Souness, who has never hidden his
affection for Liverpool, responded in the same way as Dalglish, emerging
from the tunnel, looking towards the Kop and lifting his right arm to
salute them in acknowledgment.
The only other man to experience what
it has been like to bring a team to Anfield in the last 50 years is
Gerard Houllier. It was always going to be an emotional night for the
Frenchman, who had led Liverpool to a unprecedented Cup treble in 2001,
when came back with Aston Villa and so it proved.
To watch Houllier stand in his
technical area and gaze at The Kop was to see a man who, like Souness
and Dalglish, had Liverpool in his heart and he was suitably humbled
when chants of 'Allez Allez! Gerard Houllier!' rang out towards the end
of a game that Liverpool won 3-0.
There was, of course, a degree of
irony about that chanting. The performance Liverpool produced that icy
December night in 2010 was the best of the Roy Hodgson reign but there
was never likely to be any acknowledgement of the man who had overseen
From the moment he walked into
Melwood on the morning of July 1, 2010, Hodgson was facing a battle to
win over the hearts and minds of supporters and the moment results
started to go against him, it became abundantly clear that it was battle
he would not win.
Hero's welcome: Kenny Dalglish was afforded a rapturous greeting when he returned to Anfield with Blackburn in 1992…
… but despite equalising, Rovers lost 2-1 with a goal by substitute Mark Walters
Some managers are perfect fits for a
club but Hodgson never spoke or acted as you would anticipate the man in
charge of Liverpool to. Consider this appraisal of a Europa League
qualifier against the Macedonian side FC Rabotnicki.
‘What a good result tomorrow night
will be will depend on how our opponents play, what pressure we find
ourselves under and what pressure we put on them. We will be trying to
win but I’m far from confident that will be the case.’
Happier times: Hodgson respected the opportunity and was honoured to be chosen as Liverpool boss
There were many, many more examples
of Hodgson not striking the right chord and no tears were shed when,
after 191 days in charge, Liverpool’s owners took the decision to end
his tenure in the wake of a capitulation at Blackburn.
Do not confuse the lack of
understanding about his environment with a lack of respect for the
position he held. That, absolutely, was not the case. Hodgson had his
shortcomings but he knew what a privilege it was to be appointed to the
role and was proud to have been given the chance.
Which it makes it intriguing to see
what reaction awaits him tomorrow, when he brings his West Bromwich
Albion team to town; as intriguing as it will be to see how he reacts
when – or if – he looks towards the Kop.
‘He is a man with real integrity and
dignity,’ said Dalglish earlier this week. ‘He tried his best for this
football club and I’m sure the supporters will respect that. I’m sure
Roy will get a warm reception.’
Only at 4pm on Sunday will we be able to tell if that prediction comes true.