The Euro Trip: What Happened to Roy Hodgson's 1st Liverpool Matchday Squad?

Rob Lancaster@RobLancs79Featured ColumnistJuly 29, 2017

Roy Hodgson started life at Liverpool with a win—but it went downhill fast for the Englishman at Anfield.
Roy Hodgson started life at Liverpool with a win—but it went downhill fast for the Englishman at Anfield.STR/Getty Images

Roy Hodgson's time in charge of Liverpool was short and not so sweet. 

The Englishman took over at the start of July 2010, arriving from Fulham after steering the London club to the UEFA Europa League final. Barely six months later, he had left Anfield by mutual consent, having managed to win just seven of his 20 Premier League games at the helm.

After being voted League Managers Association Manager of the Year, Hodgson had been viewed as a steady pair of hands to steer a ship that, off the field at least, was struggling to negotiate through choppy waters.

Martin Broughton was appointed as an independent chairman to sell the debt-ridden club, but he needed also to find a new manager after Rafael Benitez left by mutual consent following a disappointing 2009/10 season that saw the Reds finish seventh in the Premier League.

The decision to go for Hodgson was backed by captain Steven Gerrard, who told the club's official website (h/t the North Wales Daily Post): "Roy is hugely experienced, and I believe he is the right man for Liverpool."

He had a well-stamped passport for sure, having coached in Finland, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland. There had been stints working at international level as well, although it was undoubtedly his spell with Fulham that made him such a strong candidate for the Liverpool vacancy. What could possibly go wrong?

History now tells us quite a lot—and quickly, too.

Still, the brief Hodgson era began on a positive note, as they won on his competitive debut. On July 29, 2010, the Reds kicked off Roy's reign with a 2-0 away win over Rabotnicki in the Europa League.

In a blast from the past, Bleacher Report takes a look back at the unlikely group of players involved in the first leg of the third-qualifying-round tie in Skopje, Macedonia.

       

Diego Cavalieri

Pepe Reina was the regular in between the posts but he—like several of his club colleagues—had not returned to club duty yet after taking part in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

So, with the first-choice goalkeeper still on holiday, Diego Cavalieri started in goal. The Brazilian kept clean sheets in both legs against Rabotnicki, yet he still left the club before the end of the 2010 summer transfer window.

Signed from Palmeiras in July 2008, he played just 10 games in total before leaving for Cesena. He featured even less during his short stint in Italy, though, and opted to return home to Brazil in December 2010.

Cavalieri helped Fluminense win the title in 2012 and went on to represent his country that same year. Now 34, he is still with the same club but tends to play second fiddle to Julio Cesar these days.

         

Daniel Agger

Daniel Agger sandwiched his time at Liverpool in between two spells at Brondby.
Daniel Agger sandwiched his time at Liverpool in between two spells at Brondby.JENS ASTRUP/Getty Images

While Denmark appeared at the World Cup, their failure to make it beyond the group stages meant Daniel Agger was one of the few first-team regulars to be available for action at the end of July.

Signed for £5.8 million from Brondby in 2006, the ball-playing centre-back made 232 appearances for the Reds before returning to his former club in August 2014. That number of games would have been far higher were it not for his rather brittle body.

After two years back home, Agger announced his retirement in 2016 at the age of 31. Talking to Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten (h/t Marcus Christenson and Troels Henriksen of the Guardian), he revealed how an overreliance on anti-inflammatory pills led to his decision to quit playing.

"I have taken too much anti-inflammatories in my career," the defender said. "I know that full well, and it sucks, but I did stop it [in the end]. I am not gaining anything personally from saying this, but I can only hope that other athletes do. It could be that others take a pill or two less."

         

Sotirios Kyrgiakos

A rugged defender with an appearance that suggested he would fit right in as a cast member on Game of Thrones, Sotirios Kyrgiakos was signed by Rafa Benitez in 2009 to add a little depth to the defence.

"He's a good player in the air, strong and aggressive. We were looking for a player with experience," the then-Liverpool manager said after completing a deal with AEK Athens, per BBC Sport.

Committed but cumbersome, the Greek played enough to trigger a clause for a contract extension in the summer of 2011—only to be offloaded in August. Allowed to leave on a free, he moved on to VfL Wolfsburg.

Kyrgiakos barely featured in the Bundesliga, though, leading to a loan spell at Martin O'Neill's Sunderland for the second half of the 2011/12 campaign. He finished up his career in Australia, enjoying a short stint with Sydney Olympic before hanging up his boots.

      

Martin Skrtel

Like team-mates Agger and Kyrgiakos, Martin Skrtel turned out for Liverpool after playing at the World Cup.

Having helped Slovakia defeat reigning champions Italy before losing to eventual finalists the Netherlands in the last 16, the centre-back experienced a rather low-key return to club action.

Skrtel played every Premier League game in the 2010/11 season and made 320 appearances in total during his time at the club. Physically strong, he was tailor-made for the English game, albeit his recklessness at times led to key errors...and the occasional own goal.

Fenerbahce paid handsomely to take the 32-year-old to Turkey last summer, as Liverpool made back most of the £6.5 million they handed over to Zenit Saint Petersburg in January 2008.

       

Martin Kelly

Martin Kelly in action in the second leg against Rabotnicki at Anfield.
Martin Kelly in action in the second leg against Rabotnicki at Anfield.PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

A product of Liverpool's youth system, Martin Kelly—who assisted the second goal against Rabotnicki with a whipped cross from the right flank—promised much but, in truth, delivered little for Liverpool.

While perhaps more physically suited to playing in central defence, the local boy was more often used at right-back. Benitez handed him a first-team debut there in 2008, although he was loaned out to Huddersfield Town the following year to gain further experience.

Hodgson showed faith in the defender for both club and country, using him regularly during his short spell at Anfield before handing Kelly an England debut in May 2012, as he featured in a friendly against Norway. He has yet to add to that solitary cap. 

A ruptured anterior cruciate ligament cut short his 2012/13 season, and after falling down the pecking order, Kelly moved on to current club Crystal Palace in August 2014, telling the club website: Now is the time at that age where I need to get back to playing week-in week-out."

          

Lucas Leiva

Captain in the absence of Steven Gerrard (who returned to help Liverpool win the return leg 2-0 on home soil), the long-haired Lucas Leiva set up his side's opener in Skopje with a quickly taken free-kick. 

The Brazilian, who had become a first-team regular the previous season following the departure of Xabi Alonso, had to work hard to win over Liverpool fans, but his perseverance paid off in a big way.

Lucas made 346 appearances during a decade at Anfield. He loved not just playing for the club but also living in the city, admitting to the official website in 2015 how he considered himself an adopted Scouser.

The mutual love won't disappear even though the midfielder has now moved on. After signing for Lazio, Lucas used his Instagram account to post a heartfelt message to all the Reds around the world.

         

Jay Spearing

Local boy Jay Spearing was a regular for Liverpool in the Europa League in the 2010/11 season, making eight appearances in the competition.

Like team-mate Kelly, the midfielder came through the youth ranks before making his first-team debut in December 2008, coming off the bench against PSV Eindhoven in a Champions League group match.

While part of the squad that secured the League Cup at Wembley Stadium in 2012 under Hodgson's replacement, Kenny Dalglish, the arrival of Brendan Rodgers saw Spearing slip out of the first-team picture.

After a successful loan spell, he joined Bolton Wanderers on a permanent basis in 2013. The 28-year-old helped the club secure a return to the Championship last season but has been unable to agree terms on a new contract, meaning he is without a club.

        

Alberto Aquilani

Alberto Aquilani: The Little Prince who never quite made it at Liverpool.
Alberto Aquilani: The Little Prince who never quite made it at Liverpool.STR/Getty Images

In fairness to Alberto Aquilani, he was up against it from the moment he joined Liverpool. The Italian—who cost £17 million from AS Roma in 2009—arrived with an ankle injury and never truly settled in England.

"We had to think about players who could make a difference for us," Benitez told BBC Sport. You should have thought for a little longer when it came to Aquilani, Rafa.

Signed to replace the ridiculously popular Xabi Alonso, he played 26 times in his one-and-only full season with Liverpool, including appearing in both games against Rabotnicki (he was a substitute in the second leg).

"Maybe I should have stayed and continued playing in the Premier League, but I wanted to come back to Italy for family reasons. Nobody forced me out," Aquilani told Gazzetta Dello Sport in 2016 (h/t Neil Jones of the Liverpool Echo).

Loaned for successive seasons to Juventus and AC Milan respectively, the Italy international left Liverpool permanently in 2012, sold at a huge loss to Fiorentina. He has since turned out for Sporting Lisbon, Pescara and Sassuolo (on loan). However, "The Little Prince" is now without a home.

        

David Amoo

Rabotnicki away proved to be the first, last and only time David Amoo turned out for Liverpool's first team. The young forward started in Skopje, playing 83 minutes before Nathan Eccleston replaced him.

The Londoner moved north as a teenager before signing a two-year deal with the Reds in 2010. However, he spent much of the time out on loan, taking in stints with MK Dons, Hull City and Bury.

Released by the Reds, he signed for Preston North End in the summer of 2012 before returning to Merseyside in January of the following year, joining Tranmere Rovers for the rest of the season. 

Amoo played more regularly during two-year stints at Carlisle United and then Partick Thistle in Scotland. A free agent this summer, Cambridge United picked him up on a one-year deal.

         

Milan Jovanovic

As a parting gift, Benitez left Liverpool with Milan Jovanovic. The Serb agreed to join from Standard Liege in February 2010, albeit the manager who signed him had left by the time he arrived at the club in July. 

A former Player of the Year in Belgium, Jovanovic—a forward so slow you've most likely seen milk turn faster—never looked capable of matching his Jupiler League performances in England.

His solitary season with the Reds included just the two goals—against Northampton Town in the League Cup and then another past Steaua Bucharest in Europe—in 18 forgettable appearances.

Jettisoned by Dalglish, Anderlecht accepted the opportunity to pick up the player on a free. There were two productive years back in the familiar surroundings of Belgian football, but he hasn't played since 2013.

       

David Ngog

David Ngog turned out to be Liverpool's two-goal hero in Macedonia.
David Ngog turned out to be Liverpool's two-goal hero in Macedonia.STR/Getty Images

How do you make a good impression on the new boss? Bag a brace in his first match in charge, that's how.

David Ngog—filling in up top for Fernando Torres—grabbed both goals against Rabotnicki, capitalising on a mix-up to tap home the first before doubling Liverpool's lead with a well-timed volley after the break.

The Frenchman featured regularly under Hodgson, but with Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez arriving in January 2011, he slipped down the pecking order. After 94 games and 19 goals, he was sold to Bolton.

After a brief stint with Swansea City, Ngog returned home with Reims before spending last season in Greece with Panionios. At present, he is without a club. 

        

The Bench

Peter Gulacsi: Hungarian goalkeeper who never played a first-team game, despite sitting on the bench on plenty of occasions. He left in 2013 for Red Bull Salzburg and is now plying his trade in the Bundesliga with last season's surprise package, RB Leipzig.

Stephen Darby: Captain of the team that won the FA Youth Cup in 2006, the defender made six appearances for the Reds. He featured far more regularly in his five years with Bradford City and is now gearing up for his first season with Bolton as they return to the Championship.

Middlesbrough's Daniel Ayala lining up against Liverpool in the final game of the 2016/17 season.
Middlesbrough's Daniel Ayala lining up against Liverpool in the final game of the 2016/17 season.Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Daniel Ayala: Snatched from Sevilla before signing professional terms, the Spanish centre-back failed to make a breakthrough at Anfield. He continued his career in England with Norwich City and Middlesbrough, helping the latter reach the Premier League (albeit they lost their top-flight status after just one season).

Jonjo Shelvey: Like Jovanovic, the midfielder was signed by Benitez but never played for him at Liverpool. Talented but temperamental, he featured sporadically before Brendan Rodgers sold him to Swansea City in 2013. He finally got to work with Rafa in 2016 after Newcastle United coughed up £13.6 million for the England international, who is still only 25.

Nathan Eccleston: The Manchester-born forward replaced Amoo in the closing stages, one of his nine outings for the Reds. After playing for a plethora of English clubs on loan, he moved to Scotland to continue his career. Last seen playing for Bekescsaba in Hungary, Eccleston told Will Unwin of ITV: "It's only three hours from Budapest to Manchester so it's the same as being in Scotland, which is how I like to look at it."

Thomas Ince: The son of Paul, he made his solitary Liverpool appearance in the embarrassing League Cup defeat to Northampton Town that would haunt Hodgson. Ince went on to impress for Blackpool and is now preparing for another crack at the Premier League with newly promoted Huddersfield Town.

Lauri Dalla Valle: Finn who replaced Aquilani late on in Skopje but never featured again. The forward was sent to Fulham as part of the deal that saw Paul Konchesky move in the opposite direction. He had permanent stints with Molde and Sint-Truiden until returning to England to play for Crewe Alexandra.

        

Rob Lancaster is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All statistics and transfer fees are from TransferMarkt unless otherwise stated.

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