Albion want me – that was never true at Anfield, admits Hodgson

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The Independent Online

Getting hitched on Valentine's Day, like the proverbial holiday romance, can be a risky move. Roy Hodgson tied the knot with West Bromwich Albion yesterday, but after admitting he was "wounded" by his dismissal by Liverpool – where there was "someone else" in the relationship – he made clear his relief at feeling "wanted" again.

Hodgson, whose absence from the managerial fray lasted 37 days, has succeeded Roberto di Matteo in the post Albion define as head coach. He steps into a relegation struggle similar to the one he won with Fulham in 2007-08, starting with a derby against Wolverhampton, and is relishing a situation where the supporters appear to approve of his appointment. "I can't for one minute suggest that I felt wanted at Liverpool," he said pointedly.

The skids were under the 63-year-old former Fulham, Internazionale, Switzerland and Finland manager at Anfield when Tom Hicks and George Gillett sold the controlling interest to John W Henry and the Fenway Sports Group in October last year. Undermined by inconsistent results, Hodgson survived only until 8 January – barely a week, coincidentally, after a home defeat by Sunday's visitors to West Bromwich.

"The people who wanted me at Liverpool didn't last too long," he said, cutting a relaxed figure in an open-necked shirt. "I think the new owners found themselves in a very difficult situation because we weren't winning enough games. The fans made it perfectly clear they wanted me gone and somebody else in. That makes life more difficult and the job harder. It makes it easier if the fans say 'we know of him, we know what he can do'.

"I went [to Liverpool] with the right intentions, to work for three years and to try to help to turn the club around – that's probably too strong a word, but to start to change the fortunes and get the club back up to the very top spots. But I didn't really have the time, or wasn't given the time, to do that, because the new owners decided to make a change early on."

The "someone else" on whom Kopites had set their hearts was, of course, Kenny Dalglish, who now has the job, albeit still on an interim basis. Hodgson's future had looked uncertain for some time, but that did not prevent his feeling saddened when his contract was terminated. "Of course you feel wounded. Your pride takes a hit every time you lose a job. I'd had a very good spell in my career and it was a long while since I'd had a serious knockback.

"It hasn't dented my belief or confidence, though I can't lie and say I didn't care. I care passionately about my job and football. I've had an awful amount of praise and when you get the opposite it's not something you necessarily embrace. But if you've got half a brain you accept it's part of the job and par for the course. Of course I feel more wanted [now]."

On Saturday, Hodgson watched as West Bromwich's 3-0 lead over West Ham United became a 3-3 draw under caretaker head coach Michael Appleton, who will now resume his duties as first-team coach. The result left them 17th in the Premier League – two places higher than the lowest depths Liverpool plumbed under Hodgson and two above where Fulham were when he took over. Indeed, the task confronting the Midlands club has similarities with the position he found in west London when he arrived after Christmas in 2007.

Fulham gleaned only nine points from his first 13 matches but 12 from the last five, avoiding relegation on the final day. The following season he led them to their highest-ever position, seventh, and a year later they contested the Europa League final against Atletico Madrid. Hodgson saw parallels between the clubs, adding: "In terms of the way [Albion chairman] Jeremy Peace wants to run this club, and Mohamed al-Fayed runs his, they both want success and want to achieve it by making certain they're not bankrupting the club or leaving it in an awful mess.

"The husbandry of this club has been very good. Even when they haven't retained Premier League status, they've kept their heads and got back up again. I think Fulham have shown similar consistency and restraint."

One major difference, cautioned Hodgson, is that he had six weeks more at Craven Cottage, including a transfer window he exploited to good effect. "My first game in charge there was on New Year's Day and the first I watched was on 28 December, whereas the first I saw here was on 12 February. I had 18 games left at Fulham; I've got 12 times 90 minutes here and we have to make every one count. I'd settle for staying up on the last day again as long as we survive."



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