One of the remarkable things about sport is its ability to turn glory into despair, to elevate people to status of deities only to knock them back down to a level lower than which they started.
This is done through media and public opinion, but also through performance. Just ask Steve McClaren and Fabio Capello. There is a new boy in the club: Roy Hodgson.
Three months ago Sir Woy was on top of the world (or at least Craven Cottage). He had transformed an unglamorous Fulham side from mid table mediocrity into (almost) world beaters. They had dispatched of Wolfsburg, Roma, Shakhtar and Juventus.
Hodgson’s reputation was enhanced to such a status that when Liverpool parted company with Rafa Benitez, Woy was the new dawn. This was a challenging job, of that there was no doubt. Liverpool had ownership problems, and had finished outside the top six for the first time in 11 years, crucially not qualifying for the Champions League.
Fans (and possibly Roy himself) hoped that he would bring a degree of stability to the club, halt the slide, and inspire players whose interest had seemed to be waning in the latter stages of the Benitez regime.
As Roy takes training this morning, he must be wondering exactly what he has taken on, and exactly how much trouble he is in. Last night, as Roy stood in the teeming rain at Anfield, early season optimism was washed away as quickly as Liverpool’s League Cup campaign.
Liverpool have gained five points from their opening five Premier League games, the first time they have got so few since the first season of the Premier League. Last night they found a new low, losing to Northampton Town at home, 69 places below them in the Football League ladder (I tried to find out the last time Liverpool lost to a club in the bottom league at home, perhaps someone will help me).
There will be those that point to the fact that there were eleven changes to the Liverpool team last night, but this was a team that started with six full internationals. Moreover, these are the players on which Hodgson may have to rely in the coming months.
Liverpool are a club in turmoil and in poor form. As previously discussed, Fernando Torres cuts a lonely figure currently, and none of Roy’s summer signings (Jovanovic, Cole, Jones, Meireles, Poulsen and Konchesky) have bedded in or impressed. This means that Hodgson has to be a man under pressure.
It should not all be negative on the red side of Merseyside. They have already played three of their potential rivals (although admittedly only gained one point), and have commenced their Europa League campaign with a degree of efficiency. Liverpool now have two home games (against Sunderland and Blackpool) which could take them back to the top half of the Premier League.
Despite this, there is a nagging doubt that Woy of the Wovers may just be out of his depth. The marking for the goals conceded against Manchester United was sloppy (even after an alteration from Benitez’s zonal system), and if the best cannot be drawn out of Fernando Torres then it would seem a losing battle is on the cards.
It is difficult to know what a success would be for Liverpool this season, but the way in which Manchester City outclassed Liverpool hints at top six over top four. Whatever, if maximum points are not taken from the next two games, then the pressure will truly be on: two of the following four games are Everton away and Chelsea at Anfield.
One of the principle problems for Hodgson is that Martin O’Neill is currently out of work. If Roy left, O’Neill would be odds on for the job, and a man of his calibre being available is likely to ring true with any prospective new owners.
It would be a horrible shame if Hodgson went the way of McClaren, achieving success in Europe beyond his means, and thus being given a shot at the big time, arguably prematurely and arguably through lack of more viable options. It is not the fault of these mean that they are lauded and worshipped only to be vilified and discarded on a football manager’s scrapheap.
The man is a gent, a worker, and a true professional. Lose at home to Northampton though, and these things tend to pale into insignificance.