Liverpool Picks Fulham’s Hodgson as New Manager

Liverpool named Fulham’s Roy Hodgson as manager to replace Rafael Benitez as the club seeks to rebound from its worst Premier League finish in 11 years.

Hodgson joins Liverpool on a three-year contract, the club said on its website today. Benitez left the 18-time English soccer champion by “mutual consent” on June 3.

“The ambitions of Liverpool Football Club should be at the very highest level and that’s what we’re going to be aspiring to,” Hodgson said at a televised news conference. “I’m here to do the job that needs to be done, hopefully winning trophies very, very quickly.”

The 62-year-old led Fulham to the final of the Europa League last season, where it was beaten 2-1 by Atletico Madrid. He was named manager of the year by his Premier League peers after the London club’s first major European final.

Benitez left after Liverpool came seventh in the Premier League last season and failed to qualify for the Champions League. While he won the 2005 European Cup in his first season, he wasn’t able to end a 20-year league title drought. Benitez has since joined Champions League winner Inter Milan, succeeding Jose Mourinho, who joined Real Madrid.

Hodgson was linked with the England job after the national team’s elimination from the World Cup on June 27. He said he never thought of waiting after the Football Association said manager Fabio Capello’s future would be decided over the next two weeks.

Chosen Man

“There was never a question of should I hold out and hedge me bets for something different because this is where I want to be,” Hodgson said. “My only question was when Liverpool completed their due process was I the man they chose. When that moment came and they said you are the man we’ve chosen, all other thoughts went out of my mind.”

Liverpool’s American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are trying to sell the five-time European Cup winner amid its rising debt. The ownership uncertainty and Benitez’s departure led to U.K. media reports that players including captain Steven Gerrard and star striker Fernando Torres might also leave.

“‘We needed someone to steady the ship at this stage and I think Roy has all of the talents that we were looking for,” Liverpool Chairman Martin Broughton said.

Gerrard today backed the hiring and called Hodgson “the right man for LFC.”

Gerrard’s Backing

“Rafa left a few weeks ago and I know the club were determined to take their time and get the right man for the job,” Gerrard told the team’s website. “I think it’s been worth the wait and I’m sure that he’s just keen now to get on with it and start to quickly put in place his plans for the new season.”

Hodgson said he and the club would do “everything we can” to make certain Gerrard and Torres stay at Anfield.

“I personally can’t nail their feet to the floor,” he said. “What I can do is try to persuade them that if they stay here, we can have a good season and it’s going to be a good club to play for.”

Hodgson won 50, lost 46 and tied 32 of 128 games as Fulham manager since being hired in December 2007. The Cottagers finished 12th in the Premier League last season.

Fulham said in a statement on its website that assistant Ray Lewington will take over team matters until a successor is found.

Hodgson had coached in the Premier League at Blackburn Rovers. His career also includes spells at Inter Milan, Bristol City and Udinese as well as managing the national teams of Switzerland -- guiding the country to the 1994 World Cup -- Finland and the United Arab Emirates.

“I’ve had quite a few jobs in my time with big challenges,” Hodgson said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge but can’t deny that it’s a big one and I can’t deny that the task isn’t going to be an easy one.”

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