The Last Word: Hodgson has found his level with West Brom

Roy fell short at Anfield where he was a safe pair of hands shackled by his own rigid system

On the face of it, West Bromwich Albion have fared rather remarkably in the latest round of Premier League musical chairs. The jingle has stopped and there they find Roy Hodgson in the hotseat. The man who just last May was voted the LMA Manager of the Year by a record margin.

How did West Brom, little West Brom, manage to entice such a gargantua of gafferdom? They are but one place off the bottom three (on goal difference), have lost 13 of 19 matches and last kept a clean sheet in August – against Leyton Orient. As offers go, it can't quite have been of the "I couldn't turn down" variety.

Except to Hodgson it plainly was, and to understand why is to reflect on nine months in which a new perception of the greying 63-year-old has gestated and is slowly emerging into the blinking world.

In this time, Hodgson has gone from genius to pragmatist; from master tactician to long-ball merchant; from everyone's favourite uncle to a grumpy old man in the corner who cannot connect; from the beloved who turned a sow's ear into a silk purse into the accused who turned a silk purse into a sow's ear. He had his chance and wasn't up to it. With West Bromwich he has found his level.

Of course, none of that is fair to either manager or club. Hodgson is one of those "fine servants" to the game who should never come in for personal criticism. His credentials are his track record and that is indisputable. He took Fulham to a European final, for goodness sake.

All very true, yet it's a mystery to me why it is deemed allowable for the media to target his Liverpool predecessor so readily. After all, Rafael Benitez's track record isn't too shabby; having won the Champions' League, having reached the final on another occasion, the semi-final on another occasion and having helped Liverpool to their finest League finish in 19 years. But there we go. One should not argue with the accepted perception, and the accepted perception for so long was that Hodgson's Anfield failure could be laid at the door of the departed Spaniard. "This is Rafa's mess," went the cry. "Poor old Roy had no chance."

Yet a different reality suddenly dawned. In the four weeks that led to the – albeit disappointing – home draw with Wigan, Kenny Dalglish, a manager who has been out of the dug-out more than a decade, has taken a team in 12th, four points off the drop zone, into sixth, five points off a European place. A case of same team, different results; so the transformation requires some explanation even with yesterday's minor setback. Although perhaps not the explanation being offered by those clinging on to the Liverpool myth. That goes as follows.

Dalglish has turned it all around by the power of his own legend. The players who wouldn't play for Uncle Roy are playing for King Kenny. With the wretched American owners no more and with the blessed American owner now in place, the club is filled with the positive where before only the negative ruined the roost. It has not been a managerial change so much as a culture change. It was merely Hodgson's bad luck that he was the last custodian of the evil empire.

As part of this theory, the fans were complicit in his sacking, too. They never chanted his name, they never supported him. The manner in which supposedly the most loyal set of fans in footballing civilisation turned on him made his task impossible. Again, Hodgson suffered largely because of the stench of a decayed ownership.

But look at it another way. Look at it through the eyes of Daniel Agger, an accomplished player who saw the Hodgson regime through his own depressed eyes. The centre-half found out about Hodgson's belief in "positive brainwashing", in his irrefutable mantra of "shape, shape, shape". Agger was told to get rid of the ball, not play with it, not cultivate it; and he could not understand why. The rumblings emerging from the dressing room now indicate that neither did so many of his team-mates. Each and every interview with a Liverpool player features their enjoyment of training. They are off the leash. Their talents are no longer shackled.

That is the truth of Hodgson's demise at Anfield. The players looked like they weren't trying because they didn't believe in what they were trying. If a manager is not there to enthuse and inspire, then why is he there? Not to moan to journalists about needing everyone's support.

And if you still insist on putting the cart before the horse, Dalglish probably did have a head start in hearing his name being chanted from the off. But the Kop admired him for his previous achievements, just like they only sang out for Gérard Houllier and Benitez after they had achieved. With Dalglish, the players, like the fans, know what they are about to receive and that's what put a smile on their faces. They were right all along but only now does anyone acknowledge their footballing understanding and accede that maybe it wasn't all about their blind, arrogant faith in a saviour. Hodgson's limited ideals may work in the lesser clubs, with lesser players, but at the better clubs, with the better players, they plainly fell short.

So should West Brom weep or cheer? Depends on what they want. Roberto Di Matteo could have taken them higher than Hodgson, but he could have taken them lower as well. That's the problem with a safe pair of hands. Particularly ones handcuffed in a rigid "system". Funny how a gain can so quickly become a loss.

Agree or disagree? Email j.corrigan@independent.co.uk of leave your comment below

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn