Hodgson fired-up for derby clash

Sunday’s 214th Merseyside derby will take on even greater

significance than usual with the Reds currently enduring their

worst start to a season since 1953-54 when they were relegated.

Everton have fared little better, securing their first victory at

Birmingham just before the international break, to move one place

ahead of their near-neighbours on goal difference alone. Hodgson

believes both teams are in false positions and expects things to

have improved considerably by the time the two sides meet again at

Anfield in mid-January. “I am looking forward to it. It would’ve

been nice if we could have been in a better position though,” said

Hodgson ahead of his first Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. “I’m

sure my colleague David [Moyes] would be saying the same thing.

“It’s a bit unusual to see a derby with both teams down there but

I’m pretty sure we’ll see both teams in a better position for the

next one. “I suppose there is extra importance because both of us

are desperately in need of points – but it would be nice if we

could get them.” Hodgson has experienced the Milan derby as manager

of Inter but admits there are very few fixtures which can match the

experience of a clash between two teams separated only by the few

hundred yards of Stanley Park. “In terms of passion I think this

derby stands up there with the best ones,” he said. “If you are

talking about derbies which excite all the people within the city,

then you have to think of the ones from Glasgow and Milan too. “If

you are talking about pure derbies, then Chelsea versus Fulham

certainly doesn’t compare to Liverpool and Everton – only Milan and

Glasgow can do that.” Hodgson will not be the only one experiencing

his first Merseyside derby, with new signings Joe Cole, Raul

Meireles, Paul Konchesky, Milan Jovanovic and Christian Poulsen all

likely to get their first taste. But the manager knows how well the

players do is often down to their own personal mental strength and

character. “On paper and verbally, you could say they know what to

expect, but you can only really know what to expect when you have

the experience,” he explained. “Quite a few of our players are new

– some are new to the country and not just the club – so it takes

time for players to adjust to that. “We are naive in our

expectations sometimes. We sign a good player from abroad and then

expect him to go and play like Steven Gerrard from the first

moment. That doesn’t happen. “That’s our situation at the moment.

It’s a new team and a new venture. “Maybe we’ve expected too much

from some of the people – they are still finding their feet. But

they are good players so let’s hope they have the ability and

quality to deal with it.”