LIVERPOOL // Roy Hodgson, the new Liverpool manager, received an immediate boost yesterday when he was told he would not have to sell the club's prized assets, Steven Gerrard, the England midfielder, and Fernando Torres, the Spanish striker. Supporters feared the pair would be sold to help service debts of almost £400 million (Dh2.2 billion) but Martin Broughton, the club chairman, assured the former Fulham manager he would not have to get rid of anyone.
"Players are not for sale," Broughton said. "We don't need the money and we don't have to sell them because of the debt." The much-travelled Hodgson, 62, has been given the job of reviving Liverpool's fortunes after the 18-times English champions decided last month to end the six-year reign of the Spaniard Rafa Benitez. Hodgson takes over after a woeful season for the Anfield club, who finished seventh in the Premier League and failed to qualify for the Champions League. In April, the club were put up for sale by the American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
"This is the biggest job in club football and I'm honoured to be taking on the role of manager of Britain's most successful football club," Hodgson said after signing a three-year contract. "I'd like to think I've earned this job. My career shows that kudos is not something I've actively sought but this job carries that with it, an enormous responsibility, and I'm ready to take it on." Hodgson has made a return to the Champions League his top priority.
"This is a very big club, a club with enormous tradition, and when the club is sold it will get stronger rather than weaker," he said. Hodgson, whose name had been linked to the England national job since Fabio Capello's team was ousted from the World Cup, becomes Liverpool's 18th manager and the first Englishman to hold the post since Roy Evans left in 1998. "I'm convinced the chance to work here is the right thing for me in my career," said the Londoner. "I'm here on merit.
He said he was "anxious" to meet Gerrard and Jamie Carragher and "hear how they feel" about the club. "They are more than just Liverpool Football Club players, they are the heartbeat and very much the soul of this team. My hope will be is that they will give me the benefit of their services, just as they have given other managers the benefit of their services. I hope they won't be tempted, on the back of one disappointing year, to jump ship."
He added: "It's out of my hands to an extent, but I do know the club is anxious to keep the players. I'm anxious to keep the players." Hodgson is not allowed to sign Fulham players as part of his severance deal with the London club. Hodgson has gained a reputation as an astute tactician after an odyssey that has taken in 12 clubs in six countries during his 34-year coaching career. As well as spells in club football in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, where he won five league titles with Malmo, the multilingual Hodgson also managed Switzerland, qualifying them for Euro 96, and had a two-year spell in charge of the UAE.
He was named Manager of the Year in England last season after leading Fulham to the Europa League final where they lost to Atletico Madrid. * Reuters