Sunday, 9 January 2011

Hodgson - A Failure Not Of Management But Of Meaning

A friend of mine asked me what I thought of Liverpool's sacking of Roy Hodgson.  My first instinct was feeling for sorry for a patently decent man who no doubt tried hard to give the club what it really needs: direction and leadership.

The exact question was whether Hodgson was a victim of the "grass is always greener" mentality?  Possibly, but just as likely is that Hodgson was simply doing what most of us feel compelled to do: make the most of our opportunities, test oursleves in new and exciting situations and, to climb Maslow's hierachy.  Hodgson was self actualising, but was not given enough time (in my view) to take others with him.

I am arguing that Hodgson should have been given more time and I am arguing that it was natural for Hodgson to take the job.  However, I also believe that Hodgson was always the wrong man for the job.  And the reason for this is to do with meaning.

Like any great institution, Liverpool Football Club is defined by its values.  It stands for community and passion, uncompromising defiance and above all a sense of anti-establishment.  It is the opposite of modern football in so many ways.  Sky culture is anathema, as is awarding huge contracts to players who have no sense of the history and values of the club.  

Put simply, Roy Hodgson was too establishment for Liverpool.  He was too southern, too reasonable, too  unconfrontational.  'Hodgson for England' was far more than a witty protest, it was a damning indictment.  Hodgson is not one of us.  He is good enough for England, but not us.  This is why when I went to see the Reds on New Years day, only 35,000 were there. 

His appointment was therefore a failure not of ability and skill but of values and meaning.  Rafa was loved because he was an outsider.  Stubborn, proud and acutely aware of the values of the club. Spanish, but one of us.  In contrast, Roy disconnected the fans from the club, just like the owners before him. 

Liverpool is are crisis for two reasons.  The first is they have been chronically underfunded in comparison to their competitors.  But the second is they have been run by people who do not understand its soul.  

Of the two, it is the second which is more damaging, but far easier to overlook.  Dalglish is a step back in the right direction.  But his job is as much about what happens off the pitch as on it.
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