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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
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

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot