Hodgson not fearing Liverpool relegation

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The Independent Football

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson may be "absolutely convinced" his side will not be relegated but his comments show how far the club's fortunes have plummeted in a relatively short space of time.

His remarks had echoes of predecessor Rafael Benitez, who was ridiculed when, with the side struggling midway through last season, he "guaranteed" they would finish fourth in the Barclays Premier League.

They did not, of course, and ending the campaign seventh ultimately led to the Spaniard's departure.

But at least Benitez was aiming high when he uttered his remarks.

Hodgson's major problem at the moment is dragging his team up from a woefully inadequate 18th place.

Yesterday's 2-1 defeat at home by Blackpool was the club's third in seven league matches and a six-point haul represents Liverpool's worst start to a season since 1953-54, when they were relegated.

Hodgson is right to stress it is inconceivable his team will not salvage their situation over the next eight months.

But he also acknowledged their current position could impact greatly on where they hope to finish.

"After seven games it is a fact that we are there and it is not where we want to be, that is fairly obvious," he said.

"But with 31 games left to play I am absolutely convinced Liverpool will not be in the bottom three after 38 games.

"Whether or not this bad start is going to affect us in our ambition to be nearer the top of the table that is another matter.

"That is something you can accuse us now of not being able to do.

"But I think to suggest, especially after seeing what we did in the second half against Blackpool, that we are a relegation candidate would be stretching credulity to the limit."

The pressure on Hodgson has increased and he will have felt that personally after the Kop sang the name of legendary player and manager Kenny Dalglish, overlooked for the job in the summer, towards the end of the Blackpool game.

A two-week break for internationals means the Reds boss has plenty of time to contemplate his team's position in the bottom three.

It also places even more emphasis on the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, which is their first match on the resumption of the league.

But the 63-year-old insists the "psychological blow" of seeing Liverpool wallowing in the relegation zone is nothing compared to the problems it caused when he took over a struggling Fulham in December 2007.

"I don't think it matters we will be in the bottom three for the next fortnight," he added.

"The psychological blow of being in the bottom three after seven games is a damn sight less damaging than being there from game number 18 to game umber 36, as I experienced at Fulham.

"I had 18 games in the bottom three - that is psychological damage, especially when you see games running out and the number of points you need getting bigger and bigger."

Blackpool manager Ian Holloway believes Liverpool's players are struggling under the weight of expectation, unlike his own squad who are playing with such freedom.

"We are so far behind the smallest club in the history of this league; we've the smallest budget, we pay the worst money and we have a mountain to climb," he said.

"But that comes with its own bonuses because my lads don't feel under pressure.

"They don't have the expectation, that awful cross to bear that 'we used to be this', or 'we are this or that', which Liverpool players have to deal with.

"In the second half they got over that but first half you could see them suffering with it."

But Holloway is more concerned with his side's future and despite the surprise victory at Anfield he knows there is plenty of work to do.

"We have a long, rocky road ahead of us," he added.

"That is 10 points out of the first seven games and if we hadn't got the win at Liverpool where would we have been? Right down the bottom.

"It is only a blink of an eye when you can be right back down there."