In Roy we trust? How can the Liverpool faithful trust Roy if he doesn't even trust himself? On the doorstep to a new Premiership season, new Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson has warned the fans at Anfield not to expect silverware from this squad. He needs more time to train a team that was challenging for the title only two seasons ago.
“After seven training sessions with what I regard as the key players, it is pretty obvious to all that we are a long, long way from being a team like Manchester United, Arsenal, or Chelsea," Hodgson claims.
“I don’t even pretend that the team, after six or seven training sessions, are going to be anything like the team we want to be."
Liverpool are nowhere near their rivals, according to Hodgson's assessment. A few years or even decades with their managers have given the other clubs an advantage in form coming into this season.
While Hodgson's comments can be treated as cautious optimism, silverware in the first season as manager is possible. One would only have to look at Hodgson's predecessor's rookie year at the helm of Liverpool. Granted, Liverpool finished a disappointing fifth that season, but their fifth European Champions League trophy in Istanbul over AC Milan was still something Benitez and Liverpool can be proud of.
Trophies can be won in the first year with someone else's squad. The legend of Istanbul was accomplished by a squad that was primarily assembled by Gerard Houllier.
In Roy we trust?
"Twelve out of 14 in Istanbul were players I had signed or developed," Houllier mentioned in July when Benitez left the club.
"When I came into the changing room in Istanbul, some of the players said: 'Boss, it's your team.' I left Liverpool with a team in the Champions League, but when you finish seventh with Torres and Gerrard..."
Houllier's words should ring loud and clear to Hodgson as he enters the quest for Liverpool's elusive 19th Premiership title. Benitez took the reins of a team that was built by Houllier and turned around by "Phil Thompson, Sammy Lee and the staff" and led them to glory. The same kind of fairy tale first season should be deemed possible by Hodgson as well.
The Jose "the Special One" Mourinho took Chelsea to back-to-back Premiership titles in 2005-06, among other domestic honours, his first two years at the helm at Stamford Bridge. Excuses for a coaches inability to bring professional athletes to perform at the best of their ability is inexcusable.
Gerrard and Torres have both committed to Liverpool. Influential signings such as Joe Cole, Christian Poulsen, Milan Jovanovic, Danny Wilson, and even re-signing Fabio Aurelio have given Hodgson more than enough tools to bring home silverware this season.
Still, Hodgson insists Liverpool have a long road to be regarded among England's elite.
"It would be ridiculous to suggest that we can be at the top of our game now in terms of how I want the team to play,” Hodgson admits.
Last year's seventh place finish was a massive underachievement for Liverpool; marred by injuries to key players, morale drops and failure to live up to the potential and hype of how close Liverpool came in the '08-'09 season.
The main goal factory of Gerrard and Torres remains intact (albeit for at least one more season). If Hodgson is the appropriate successor to Rafa Benitez, re-entry into the top four is mandatory and expectations for any trophy this season should be realized as mandatory as well.
To write off Liverpool's silverware chances before they even started shows us that Hodgson's nerves are wearing thin. The players under him are top flight professional footballers; captains to their international teams in the cases Gerrard and Javier Mascherano (it's looking like he may be staying, unless the Barcelona rumor for 15 m and Alexander Hleb goes through).
Looking at some of the remaining names on the roster, these players are some of the best their countries have to offer: Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel, Cole, Milan Jovanovich, Poulsen, Aurelio, Alberto Aquilani, Wilson, Jamie Carragher, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger...solid on paper. Even Pepe Reina in goal is a master compared to the majority of the remaining EPL keepers.
Hodgson was given the keys to powerhouse waiting to grow into and become aware of their latent talent and skill. Failure to secure a top four spot, new silverware in the trophy room or improve on last year's seventh place in the tables would start (or continue) an avalanche for Liverpool.
Torres will almost certainly move on, taking with him a lot of wind from the Liverpool sails. More players would likely follow the exodus and attracting replacement talent would be even more difficult.
Taking home the Champions League trophy in Benitez's first season at the helm of Liverpool is proof that Hodgson should expect silverware his first season. To not achieve this would be a horrific start to Hodgson's tenure and ultimately a larger disaster for Liverpool in the long run.
Hodgson claims he has not had enough time to impose his strategies upon the players. Only one strategy matters at this point, no excuses. Winning...and winning now.