Roy Hodgson Faces Liverpool for the First Time Since Sacking—A Photo-Essay
Felt that he wasn’t given a chance, the ex-Liverpool manager has been granted a near savior’s role at West Brom.
Roy Hodgson’s return to the sideline as manager with West Brom witnessed an immediate turn-around for a club whose term in the Premier League was beginning to look like a short visit.
Seven weeks into his tenure, he had yet to lose his first five games. Winning one and drawing four would not be grounds for bestowing a manager with aura, but sitting in 17th place upon arrival and taking the team to 16th place in April is a feat of stabilization, one that eluded him at Liverpool, whom he would be facing for the first time since his ignoble sacking less than three months prior.
Now it was time to watch him closely, study his profile; this was the moment of his return, as if those first five games were only whispers of his impending arrival.
His nine-season absence from the Premier League from 1999-2007 was less of a journey that his five weeks of reflection and licking his wounds after Liverpool sacked him in January.
At Fulham, his dapper figure was a familiar sight. He was someone we felt we knew, an uncle, our mother’s older brother. You wanted to hear the stories of his time in Scandinavia, the Middle East, Italy, and Switzerland.
But Liverpool had banished him, sent him beyond the gates, where word—when it got through—was that he was taking it all very hard. Now he had an opportunity to face his judge on new terms.
We watch closely because something had to have changed. He may have gone into the jungle slightly deranged, but he walked out through the other side. Now he’s a man in a trench coat, no longer so lovable with that eternal scowl and overwhelming seriousness not only to save a struggling team, but a struggling career.
There are deeper grooves around the eyes and the face is calloused. The elements are always harsher in exile. His reintegration is also a massive test. Can he still manage at the highest level? We spy just off to the side, embedded in a pocket of concrete, behind the cover of densely crowded heads.
We never see him reacting to developments on the pitch. The reaction shot is too predictable and he’d offer us a contrivance, something unnatural, leaving us with little to decipher. We want to see him scratch his ear, wipe his brow, reveal a mild tic without his knowledge. But at halftime we catch him looking at the camera as furtively as we have been looking at him. Maybe he knew all along. In the most minimal of acknowledgments he indictae that he was one step ahead.
But Kenny Dalglish is a mystery too. Does he feel the weight that his adversary carries around? As a permanent fixture at the club, he witnessed Hodgson’s reign from the beginning. He knew very well what a new manager was up against and certainly had strong feelings about what needed to be done, and when he pleased, offered unofficial assessments. Whether or not he supported Hodgson, and whether or not he wanted the job himself matter little. He was the man who replaced him, and as a result is wrapped up in his predecessor’s fate. Are they wearing the same coat?