An alternative view on who is to blame for LFC’s current malaiseBy
So “Woy” has been told to pack his bags and, with the most nostalgic appointment since Kevin Keegan returned to Newcastle (because that went well), Kenny Dalglish is back in charge at Anfield.
But as Roy exits stage left, who should actually be shouldering the blame for the club having ended up in this state in the first place?
Should the buck stop with the previous American ownership group? Or maybe it is all Rafa’s fault for failing to rectify (or even identify) the weaknesses in the squad during his final season in charge? Or is just the case that Roy Hodgson wasn’t suitable for the role in the first place and he really did have to go after only five months in charge?
In reality it is highly likely the blame has to be shared between all of the above. And more than a handful of blame should also be thrown at the players themselves over recent months. Certain players clearly aren’t good enough and, for one reason or another, others don’t appear to have given 100% in an attempt to turn the situation around.
However, I have an alternative theory for who is to blame for all that is wrong at LFC.
Michael Carrick is quite clearly to blame for the entire escapade.
Confused? You should be…
Let’s go back to 2007/08
Over the festive period I put a piece together about why I felt West Brom were mispriced by the market and as such were a great value bet to go down. If you missed it you can find it here.
As part of my analysis I made reference to the fact that only three teams had ever been relegated having been seven points clear of the drop zone at Christmas.
One of said teams was the Reading side of 2007/08.
The Royals started their campaign with a cracking 0-0 draw at Old Trafford, and then went on to win four of their first six home games.
In what was a fragmented EPL, although they had only amassed 22 points, they found themselves sitting comfortably in mid-table at Christmas, eight points clear of the drop zone.
Steve Coppell’s medication had ensured he managed to stave off the “the seven week itch” and with Neil Warnock having just been appointed down at Crystal Palace, everything was set for the blue and whites to have avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.
But then the wheels well and truly fell off.
They proceeded to go 0/0/8/-13 to start the second half of the season, falling from 12th in the table to 18th in the process. Their eight point cushion had already evaporated and they were firmly entrenched in a relegation battle.
As we entered spring, things began to improve and the Royals picked up well needed back-to-back wins away at Middlesbrough and then at home to Manchester City to pull themselves back up the table out of the relegation zone.
With only two games left to play, the Royals were odds on to avoid the drop. However, despite beating the most hapless team in Premier League history (see footnote) 4-0 on the final day of the season, Fulham (managed by a certain Mr Roy Hodgson…) won their final three games to pull off one of the greatest escapes in Premier League history – in turn sending the Royals down on goal difference.
The Fulham fans were so elated to have survived on the final day of season that over 45 of them even put down their newspapers and stood up to applaud. They were rapturous scenes.
However, things hadn’t always been so joyous down at the Cottage that season.
Back in December, a certain Roy Hodgson had taken over a side in dire straits. They had won only two games all season under Lawrie Sanchez who failed miserably to turn the Cottagers into “a big club” and appeared way out of his depth at the Premier League level.
Poor Lawrie was sharply relieved of his duties and ordered to go and talk complete dross on TalkSport.
The revival begins… slowly
Despite winning only one of his first eight games in charge (starting 1/1/6/-9), the former Blackburn and Inter Milan man somehow managed to rescue the situation.
No doubt inspired by Roy’s forward thinking training ground methods, free flowing football and Olympic standard face rubbing, ex-Liverpool great Danny Murphy and the boys performed like a team worthy of a European place over the season’s latter months – chalking up 17 points from the last 10 games (5/2/3/+1) to avoid the drop.
Despite having won away at Man City courtesy of a quite unbelievable comeback and injury time winner and then seeing off Birmingham at the Cottage on X May, Fulham still headed into the season’s final day staring relegation in the face.
Roy’s boys knew they would almost certainly have to beat “The Portsmouth Globe Trotters” down at Fratton Park to retain their place in the top flight – no mean feat given Pompey were 7/8/3/+11 on their own patch that year.
An unusual sequence of events
Now this is where it gets interesting. The Pompey side Fulham beat at Fratton Park on that final day was one preparing for the biggest game in the clubs history – an FA Cup final against Cardiff City that they were very much expected to win.
Now, I am not suggesting for a minute that Portsmouth didn’t try in that game, but the pending trip to Wembley must have had at least some impact on the players themselves and ‘Arry’s team selection.
Now you may remember, on the way to the final, Portsmouth had pulled off one of the shocks of the season by knocking Man United out of the FA Cup at the quarter final stage via an improbable 1-0 win at Old Trafford.
Anyone that watched that game will probably remember that is wasn’t a classic “Park the bus, nick a goal” tactical masterpiece. This was a Harry Redknapp managed side after all!
Pompey got absolute battered for 89 of the 90 minutes that day.
If you didn’t watch the game, can’t remember or don’t believe me, this might help:
Of course this is all “ifs, buts and maybes”. But when you look back at it the situation isn’t as convoluted as you may think.
If Carrick puts that sitter away, Patrice Evra’s shot goes in off the upright or David James doesn’t put in one of the best performances of his career United probably would have won that day.
If that had been the case, Portsmouth would have needed something from that final day fixture against Fulham to secure a place in Europe the following season.
And if that had been the case, I honestly believe that Fulham might have gone down and Reading might have stayed up.
But for the width of a post – or even the length of Michael Carrick’s big toe – things could have been so, so different.
There would have been no FA cup win for Pompey.
We wouldn’t have witnessed any of those great European nights at the Cottage
There would have been no trip to Hamburg for the Fulham fans.
Hell, whilst we are pushing it, Man United might even have won the treble that year and Sir Alex Ferguson might have decided to sign off on a high.
And there is one other thing we can say for certain. Monsieur Roy Hodgson would certainly never have been appointed as the manager of the institution that is Liverpool Football Club.
It’s a bloody funny old game football.