Roy Hodgson could be the man to bring stability to Liverpool during uncertain times. The thought that the 62 year-old was being lined up to potentially replace Fabio Capello as England manager speaks to how highly the former Fulham boss is regarded around football.
According to multiple reports, Hodgson was given the "green light" by Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Jamie Carragher to become Rafael Benítez's replacement, adding further credence to his appointment.
After many seasons under the demanding Spaniard, Liverpool's stars demanded a more relaxed manager who could bring calm to the dressing room. Hodgson was able to create an atmosphere of trust and camaraderie which led to Fulham reaching the Europa League final this past season.
In the face of financial woe and the difficult task of breathing life into the fallen Premier League giants, Hodgson may be the perfect fit to guide Liverpool. American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett continue to drag their feet over the club's sale and restrict summer transfer funds. Hodgson seems readily equipped to handle such demands.
During the manager's time at Fulham, he was able to handle the club's tight budget wisely. Forward Bobby Zamora was signed in a joint £6.3 million deal along with right—back John Pantsil from West Ham.
Zamora had initially struggled to score goals with Tottenham and West Ham, but Hodgson was able to help the striker find his scoring boots last season as Zamora bagged 21 goals in 44 appearances. Pantsil was unwanted at West Ham but became an important member at Fulham and even more impressively has helped Ghana into the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup.
The free transfers of solid Australian keeper Mark Schwarzer and Zoltán Gera also add to Hodgson's shrewd reputation. Gera went on to score two goals against Juventus in an improbable Europa League comeback and was voted by Fulham supporters as their player of the season. His most impressive signing though has been Brede Hangeland, signed for £2.5 million from F.C. Copenhagen, but now wanted by Arsenal and possibly on Hodgson's shopping list at Liverpool.
Hodgson led Fulham to seventh place in the Premier League in 2008—09 after the club narrowly escaped relegation the previous season, only surviving on goal differential. His famous run to the Europa League final ended in an extra—time loss to Atletico Madrid and would have went to penalties if not for a Diego Forlán 116th minute goal. This feat earned him the 2010 League Managers award, winning it in a record—breaking landslide.
Besides Fulham, Hodgson has had significant success elsewhere. As manager of Switzerland, he took charge of a team that hadn't qualified for the World Cup for 28 years and steered them into the round of 16 in the 1994 World Cup.
He also was a master of the Swedish Allsvenskan, winning six league titles and also earning F.C. Copenhagen a Danish title. While at Inter he was able to get a team lacking quality, aside from Paul Ince and Javier Zanetti, to a major European final losing to German side Schalke on penalties.
Now taking the reins at Liverpool, Hodgson possesses the coolness needed to calm a disenchanted dressing room and jaded superstars. Liverpool's stars will be looking for answers and the former Fulham manager might be able to convince the likes of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard to stay around considering they gave Hodgson their stamp of approval.
Gerrard's best mate, Danny Murphy, swears by Hodgson and must have spoken highly of his manager at Fulham in conversations between the two former Liverpool and England teammates. There is some thought amongst the media that if Gerrard were to stay, Torres and others would follow.
Another great concern is dealing with Liverpool's owners, whom Benítez was constantly at odds with over control and transfer budgets. Hodgson's relationships with past owners Massimo Moratti at Inter and Mohamed Al-Fayed at Fulham were amicable and he could have a stronger working relationship with the Americans than his predecessor. Benítez used the media and fans as tools to gain power at Liverpool but was sacked as soon as the club suffered their first disappointing season under his leadership.
The American duo got on the Spaniard's bad side as soon as they arrived, they made false promises over the transfer budget. This led Benítez to demand greater spending power in front of the media shortly after the 2007 Champions League final. An approach behind Rafa's back to former German national team manager Jürgen Klinsmann further deteriorated Benítez's relationship with the owners.
This uncertain era in Liverpool's history calls for great stability. Hodgson should be able to bring this to a club in desperate need of civility as everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction for the Reds to get back to their winning ways. Benítez's wars with Hicks & Gillett may have been completely for the betterment of the club but it caused distractions for the playing squad.
Hodgson will attempt to make the best of the funds given to him and keep the players focused on accomplishing what they're paid for rather than worrying about matters beyond their control.
If he is able to keep a hold of the majority of the talented squad that Rafa built, Roy Hodgson will have a good shot at getting Liverpool back where they belong in the Champions League.
He will create a positive atmosphere within the dressing room by using an opposite approach to the always demanding Benítez and earn the complete trust of his players as he did at Fulham. The wise 62 year-old may be exactly the remedy that Liverpool F.C. needs in a defining era of their history.