By Rohan Kallicharan
This is not an easy period in which to be a supporter of Liverpool Football Club. Rumours continue to gather about the detested Tom Hicks finding additional funding to refinance his loans, and take a controlling interest in the club. On the field, morale has hardly been lifted by what can, at best, be described as a stuttering start to the season.
I recall being interviewed in a vox-pop by ESPN prior to last season’s league clash with Birmingham City. That is a memorable, and emotional, night for me, given that it was the last occasion on which I attended Anfield with my fiancée Danielle before she passed away. We disagreed that evening, because I was very much of the opinion that Rafael Benitez should be getting more out of a team that had lost 5 of their opening 11 fixtures in the Premier League. Dani was forthright in saying that this was Liverpool Football Club, and we supported our team and manager at all costs. Upon our return to Birmingham that evening, I watched a repeat of the evening’s telecast, and to a man, every single Liverpool supporter interviewed, echoed her sentiments. It is the Liverpool way and we support our own to the dying embers.
It saddens me, therefore, to see so much animosity towards Roy Hodgson at so early a stage of his managerial tenure at Anfield. Now I will be honest enough to admit that Hodgson was not my ideal appointment, but he is here, and that is that.
Six games into the Premier League season, Liverpool have amassed a paltry 6 points, including 2 defeats. By my reasoning, that leaves them with 5 games in which to ensure they don’t lose a further 3, and also the remainder of the season in which to ensure they finish in 7th place or above. Tongue in cheek, perhaps, but the bottom line is that Hodgson can be judged only in comparison of what happened in the previous season, especially given the turmoil in which the club finds itself off the field. More appropriately, if Liverpool supporters are going to be true to themselves and consistent, Hodgson is the manager and will be supported accordingly.
Romantic notion? Or maybe a pipe dream exaggerated by and derived from the fact that Benitez maybe had a better approach to ‘spin’ with both the media and the fans? Maybe both, but it is the status quo.
In terms of the turmoil off the pitch, it seems to me an entirely ridiculous concept to suggest that the players and management have not been affected by the ongoing off-field dramas. I put it in a very basic concept to which most can relate, that if the company for whom you work or the college at which you studied was constantly the subject of rumour, speculation and negative publicity, could you honestly say that you would be able to concentrate fully on the task at hand? I would be queuing to go and work in a more secure and happy environment. It surprised me that Javier Mascherano was the only big name to leave the club, and those that have loyally remained are looking over their shoulder every day at every training session and before every match, just like the rest of us, hoping that Hicks will not assume control and that someone is going to come to the rescue of them and the club.
It is no environment in which to breed a successful football team, and certainly not one in which to instil confidence and belief into the players, and in this respect, Hodgson faces an unenviable task, one in which Benitez ultimately failed last season after working so hard in the few years prior. Anyone doubting this only has to look at the faces of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard at Birmingham City on Easter Sunday to know that a change was inevitable.
The bottom line is that the ongoing soap opera in the boardroom is a virus, that has spread its way right from the top through the central nervous system of the club and is now spreading infection through every cell and artery. Our battle is with the Boardroom, and that is nothing that was unknown prior to today’s performance, which was average at best. Now is the time when supporter, fans and players must stand in absolute unity to ensure that Tom Hicks, in particular, and George Gillett are removed from Liverpool Football Club.
Today’s protest is a mere drop in the ocean, the achievements of discouraging Blackstone a small stepping stone. Whether through the auspices of Spirit of Shankly, or otherwise, action must be taken, at ALL costs. It matters not an iota whether you crave for the return of Benitez, or are a staunch supporter of Hodgson – for what it is worth, I am in neither camp – all that matters is that we wholeheartedly support every single man in red, and collectively mobilise and politicise ourselves to do whatever is necessary to serve our football club, and to protect 118 illustrious years of history.
We are Liverpool Football Club, but that not give us a divine right to success. There is a reason that we languished in seventh place last season, and that is only in some small part down to Rafael Benitez and his staff. There is also a reason why we are enduring so difficult a start to this season which is, in my opinion, only in a similarly small part down to Roy Hodgson and his staff. In 1990-91, we had just won the most recent of our 18 League Titles, and in 2000-01, we would win a Treble, and return to the European Cup.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is 2010-11, and the mere survival of Liverpool Football Club as we know it, would represent a tangible success.