Following the first part of this three part series it’s clear that Liverpool for their huffing and puffing over the last 20 years had actually not got that much closer to winning the title and the Hodgson era was looking more like the Hodgson error.
Fightings within, fears without had plagued the club for years and was put down to the messy ownership of Gillett and Hicks. Whilst Hodgson was in charge the old owners were kicked out, and FSG under Thomas Werner and John Henry, took over. As results and performances refused to improve as 2009 turned to 2010, the patience of the new owners – who hadn’t appointed Hodgson – was soon exhausted and the man the fans had acclaimed as the rightful successor to Benitez came in.
It was almost a case of the Prodigal Son returning. Kenny Dalglish is the most popular player in the history of the club and his time as manager gave some the impression that there was unfinished business. It was a canny move by the new owners to look for someone to bring unity and stability to the club and to find it in none other than Dalglish. Some questioned bringing in a man who hadn’t managed a club in quite a few years, but it wasn’t as though he’d been out of the game totally, and his connection to Liverpool made the appointment at least in a caretaker capacity a wise one.
The results for the second half of the season improved significantly and at one point it was not beyond the realms of possibility to see the club competing close to the prestigious top four. Yet the exertions of the season seemed to catch up with the team and in their last few games, they petered out and had to content themselves for 6th place. In the context of the season, it was better than expected, and being a better finish than the previous season gave reasons to be optimistic for his first full season in charge.
Squad improvements were obvious to all if we were to now begin the journey to get back to being a Top Four club. It’s one thing to be out of the top four in one season, but to be out of the top five for two seasons in a row is reason to believe that really significant work would have to be done to improve the side if we were to live up to the expectations of the owners to challenge for a top four place.
They backed the manager with money to make signings and with the amount spent on players, again Liverpool fans lived in hope that maybe the King could bring back some joy to the club. I was optimistic that we could finish fourth – Arsenal appeared to be in disarray, Spurs weren’t buying big and tried to hold on to what they had, which along with the buys we made gave me room to believe we could make that leap.
If you asked me as a Liverpool supporter which would I accept – winning domestic trophies or finishing in a Champions League place, I would probably veer towards the trophies … as long as the final league placing saw us being competitive. By the competitive, I mean in the top six, preferably fifth. That kind of season gives you room to breathe again for another season.
What happened this season, however, was none of that that. We made it to the FA Cup final, we won the Carling Cup, but we finished 8th. Not only that but the league positions actually reflected how poorly we did. And we did poorly. Our home form was abysmal. Now what was said often was that we were unlucky. We were creating the chances, we just weren’t putting them away. I’m not the biggest believer in luck anyway, but it’s one thing to hit the bar and the post on a number of occasions in a few matches, it is outright bad finishing to have hit the bar and the post on the occasions and the many matches we did.
The league performances were poor. So poor in fact, that they couldn’t make up for the fact that we won the Carling Cup and the reached the FA Cup final – it was a bad season. We failed to hit our expectations, not only did we fail, but we failed by some way. Not just some way in terms of points, but some way in terms of how other clubs progressed at our expense.
Some under-performing seasons can be put down to circumstances and events and factors, but the league does not lie. When you consider that none of the new signings did well throughout the season, and the impact of the Suarez scandal, it all contributed to a really, really disappointing season. It’s not as though Kenny needed a season to get to know the team, because he had the best part of a half-season to understand the needs of the team. He takes responsibility for the signings that were made. He takes responsibility for how well the team … or how bad it did.
The owners obviously assessed this and reached the ultimate decision for the King – what does that mean for now and the short term future? That will be answered in the concluding part of this series.