Stop the injury excuses, Hodgson tells Torres

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Roy Hodgson admitted there were lessons to be learned from Liverpool's Carling Cup humbling by Northampton last week but that the main one was to have firepower on the bench.

That, the manager said, was one reason he had taken Fernando Torres to the Netherlands. The other was that the striker can no longer be considered a player feeling his way back from injury. According to Hodgson, there should be no more excuses for Liverpool's most valuable footballer.

"The injury problems are behind him," he said going into this evening's Europa League group match here. "You can't bring those up any more. They were supposedly cleared up before he went to the World Cup but, because he didn't meet up with some people's expectations in South Africa, there were theories. But he was clear of injury over there, and the one he picked up in the final was very minor – and had cleared up before he got back to us for pre-season."

There would ordinarily be no point in flying Torres from Merseyside, where Steven Gerrard has remained as a precaution against a back problem, unless he was going to start in the Galgenwaard Stadium. However, the bitter experience of the Carling Cup lingers: Hodgson selected a bench of academy products, leaving him with no cards to play when Northampton began tearing into his back four in the rain. However, his argument that going out on penalties was not a "football defeat" would cut little ice at a club that won two European Cups in shoot-outs.

"One of the benefits of having Torres here is that when you are drawing or losing to Northampton and you have left all your best players out to prepare, you would like to have them available to change things," said Hodgson. "Maybe that's one of the things I learned from last week – but I learned a lot of things last week." One of the most telling is a realisation that the squad players left him by Rafael Benitez are not good enough.

The Galgenwaard's press room walls carry many reminders of the Dutch title Utrecht celebrated in 1958. In contrast to Liverpool, there has not been much silverware since, although Dirk Kuyt, who started off at Utrecht, said the Dutch Cup he lifted here was more than he had won at Anfield.

Also, this Utrecht are deceptively dangerous – ask Neil Lennon, who watched disbelievingly as his Celtic side were routed in last month's qualifier. Utrecht were also good enough to force a goalless draw with Napoli.

"I wouldn't say Dutch club football is enjoying a renaissance, but it is going through a good period," said Hodgson. "It serves no purpose to bring up the two clubs' respective histories. They are irrelevant. It is Utrecht 2010 versus Liverpool 2010."

Utrecht (probable 4-4-2): Vorm; Cornelisse, Schut, Wuytens, Nesu; Duplan, Lensky, Silberbauer, Mertens; Mulenga, Van Wolfswinkel.

Liverpool (probable: 4-4-2): Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Kelly; Kuyt, Lucas Leiva, Meireles, Cole; Ngog, Torres.

Referee Duarte Gomes (Portugal).