We’re happy there’s no hysteria this time

AN old Hollywood actor became the byword for wooden performances. The subject of a celebrated urban myth, he became infamous several years after a radio presenter supposedly announced his upcoming appearance on a show by howling in disbelief: “Sonny Tufts?!”

For all its modern glitz, football has yet to unveil a manager with such melodrama, but one suspects the news of Roy Hodgson’s arrival would be greeted with similar incredulity had it not been heavily sign-posted from the moment Benitez bailed.

Let’s get the mewling of his predecessor’s idolaters out of the way first. There will inevitably be cries of “we gave up Rafa for this?”, but they resemble the lovelorn yelps of a scorned teenager ranting at his parents – “you never liked her did you? I hate you!” – when in fact he was probably dumped for a hunk with more money and less hysteria.

Through recent turmoil a blind eye was turned toward Rafa’s predilection for politics when results were good. As the situation deteriorated he was left with nothing but excuses and demands for money and confirmations that he knew he’d never get. Once compensation was offered he soon fled, and any claims he’d have stayed to face the complexities now awaiting his successor seem witless in the extreme.

Even if this could be accepted, Roy wasn’t first choice. In fact, each fresh tabloid candidate was greeted with such fervour it seemed even if the flavour of the day didn’t accept the poisoned chalice there was no way Hodgson could after being ‘blanked’ by so many supporters.

His approval dropped to around 6% around the time Dalglish was linked with the job. Sentiment must never be casually dismissed where football is concerned, especially in this part of the world.

I’m one of the stereotypical Scousers that bristles with every new slight – which hardly helps my cause! – but I know we have a maudlin streak and the return of King Kenny would have tapped into the mother lode of all mawkishness.

A prolonged absence from the game did not deflect supporters from what they now saw as a new holy quest (having failed to get Rafa off the cross). I’d have been all for it if any hint had come from Kenny about his second in command being a top coach with youth, fresh ideas and ambition enough to see this could be his shortcut into the big job if all went well.

But when the only name to emerge was Ian Rush, that’s when my heart sank and the shadow of Kendall loomed. It seemed a particularly Geordie thing to do, Keegan and Shearer proving Romance does not conquer all.

And that’s from someone who called Dalglish ‘The Supreme Being’ when he was last manager here.

More straws were clutched – Deschamps couldn’t have been more dismissive – before finally people had to accept the inevitable; it was Hodgson or nothing.

Safe pair of hands, steering us through choppy waters, blahdy blah.

Modern football’s clamour for glamour and “HUGE HEADLINES” was rebuffed. I’d be a liar if I said that didn’t given me a quiver of pleasure.

WHEN Moores sent Souness packing and replaced him with the other Roy, he used a Tory slogan; Back To Basics. Not a judicious thing to do. Had the power from Red shoulder-shrugging been harnessed it could have kept the city’s lights on for months. It turned out to be a vital though ultimately unsuccessful decision, because God knows what would have happened had we gone backwards with two consecutive managers.

We’re not far from a similar situation now. For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth it’s not as if every appointment sets the pulses racing. In fact I can only think of two, both of them hugely ironic; Souness and Benitez. Shankly’s Huddersfield were barely higher in 1959 than they are now.

Maybe we’ve had enough of deifying the man in the top job at the expense of the men on the actual pitch.

Whenever Paisley was presented with his annual manager of the year award, he would tell the interviewer “it’s all aboot the players, reeeeally”.

Since the Spice Boys all but eroded the supporter-player bond you’ve never once heard a Liverpool manager say that. Roy might just break that spell, without hopefully encouraging the lifestyle excess of the 90’s that turned our love septic and cynical. Whether he can keep them all here is another hugely debatable matter.

I’ve not seen one article on the man that didn’t include the word “respected”. We may miss the genius of Rafa Benitez, in fact it’s a stone-cold fact we will, but if in its place comes composure, focus and a happier stable dressing room we may not be heading for the abyss many predicted, gleefully in outsiders’ cases and fearfully in our own.


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