For Hodgson there is only one escape from the barbs — win

I have no talent for lip reading, but I could have sworn when Diouf got that poxy equaliser Hodgson said: “I don’t bel-eeeeeve it!”

You tend to become a bit tetchy as you get older. By the time I’m Roy’s age I’ll need my own 10-yard exclusion zone the way things are going.

But when you’re the manager of a famous team, folk will focus on your pricklier moments. It doesn’t help when malignant types conduct their own fictionalised farce, bending anything and everything to suit their Twitterish whim.

With Purslow receding into the background others have become fair game, but for Hodgson there is only one escape from the barbs — win.

The stirrers had a field day with his admittedly petulant pop at Frank Rijkaard.

They weren’t quite so eager to report Roy’s accusation about the Dutchman’s agent in mitigation; the sort of thing that, in Rafa’s time, would have brought out the flamethrowers. So clearly it’s not what is being done, but whom it’s being done to that inspires concern.

Not that Hodgson owns the copyright on cracked press conferences. With Rafa’s dairy fixation and Fergie’s lip wobble over Rooney (where were the violins?) you wonder if the job interview should involve ink blot tests before they’re allowed to set foot inside the room. Don’t even get me started on Holloway.

We’ve said for a while that Roy doesn’t help himself. His preposterous assessment of our derby performance and his timid shrug of the shoulders when Torres was linked to United almost had his enemies drowning in their own froth.

Only the players can save Hodgson and until now they’d looked extremely reluctant to do so.

I’ll waste no time on Napoli, a pointless exercise unless you count sending a few hundred Reds back to the Stone Age as ‘instructive’. The return may be tastier still, if you believe everything you hear.

The rest did some players a lot of good as they certainly played better against Blackburn. It’s hard not to keep using the word ‘comparatively’ because we’ve been appalling up to now. If a pass arrives at the foot it was meant for, and was even controlled, you half expect a lap of honour to break out any moment.

It was a good first half with no reward. People were just happy to see some football I guess. Maxi finally looked interested and Kyrgiakos was bound to exploit their defensive frailty eventually.

As the loathsome Diouf scuffed his shot into the net via Carragher’s face, moments after we’d been denied a blatant penalty to provide some breathing space, hearts sank. Had the second not come so quickly we may have crawled back into our shells and let fate fiddle with the manager as she pleased. The reaction to Torres scoring showed a defiance that hasn’t been seen at all so far.

We ran out of steam again with 20 minutes to go, and that’s troubling. It has been like that all season. The summer was disrupted to put it mildly, and that’s when the real fitness work ought to take place. It’s a huge problem, and how it gets solved in the middle of winter I’ve no idea.

Rafa also referred to the new fitness coach in his milky missive against Purslow, and you do wonder what goes on behind closed doors. You shouldn’t have to rest players to get one over Allardyce.

Then again they shouldn’t be in the bottom three full stop. We’re still a million miles from what ‘should’ be.

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