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Oct 28, 2011

Roy will relish Reds reunion

ESPN analyst Kevin Keegan is one of English football's most respected figures and he will be writing for ESPNsoccernet throughout the season. As a player, Kevin represented Liverpool with distinction, winning numerous titles in domestic and European football, and was twice named European Footballer of the Year during his time at Hamburg. Kevin has also managed England, Newcastle United, Manchester City and Fulham.

It's always an interesting situation when a manager comes up against his former club and that's the situation we have this weekend on ESPN when Roy Hodgson welcomes Liverpool to the Hawthorns to take on West Brom. There's no doubt that Roy will still be disappointed about how things went at Liverpool and he will want to beat them for a million reasons, not least because they saw fit to get rid of him after just six months in the job.

After overseeing a 2-1 home win towards the end of last season, Roy stressed that he "got no extra pleasure from beating Liverpool" but the experience at Anfield is bound to have stayed with him and he will be very keen to turn them over again. He will feel that he didn't get enough time to get his ideas across and was never given a real chance, though he will be the first to admit that the results weren't good enough.

He just didn't get it up and running quickly enough and that's a real problem at Liverpool compared to somewhere, with the greatest respect, like West Brom. The expectation level is so much bigger at Liverpool - they've won the league so many times and the supporters are used to success. I said at the time he needed to hit the ground running and for whatever reason he didn't and that's why it didn't last long.

I'm sure Roy doesn't feel he has anything to prove and he moved on very quickly; he will have put his travails at Liverpool down to it being wrong place, wrong time. I admired him for not shying away from what was a real challenge at West Brom, who were down at the wrong end of the table when he took charge - people like Roy just want to be involved in the game and Liverpool's loss was certainly West Brom's gain.

Roy's reputation as a quality, experienced manager has not diminished and if the FA wants the next England manager to be English then there is only really him and Harry Redknapp as potential candidates. People may look at what happened with Liverpool and say 'when he had the chance at a big club he didn't do well', but international management is not like that. You have to work with a small pool of players and you can't just go and buy a striker if you're struggling or strengthen your squad with foreign signings. You have to pick from what you've got and that's certainly more comparable to what he did at Fulham, where he enjoyed real success. I'm not sure if he is the answer for England - I know first-hand that job is one of the toughest around - but he'll definitely be on the shortlist.

With Liverpool having spent more than £100 million on new players since Kenny Dalglish took charge in January, Roy must wonder 'if I'd been given a bit more time and £100 million to spend on players, how would I have done?' But I think the playing field wasn't really even as Kenny wasn't coming in from the outside. For Roy, it would have been like when I went to Fulham; I knew about the likes of Jimmy Hill and George Cohen, and that they played at Craven Cottage, but had to immerse myself in finding out about the history of the club - the players, the managers, the records.

In contrast, Kenny has lived and breathed Liverpool for so many years and the club is a real part of him. Having sat behind the scenes, studying the young players and watching Rafa Benitez and Roy Hodgson, he came in and knew exactly what he wanted to do and was able to put all of his thoughts into actions. His reputation as a player and as a manager with Liverpool gave him a massive advantage over Roy.

Most of what Kenny has implemented has worked out and the signing of Luis Suarez was inspired. He plays in that famous No. 7 shirt that Kenny had and I had and while he's different to us, one thing he has in common is that he gives it everything when he's out on the football pitch. He'll try stuff, he's exciting, he's a little bit volatile - which he may have to watch at times - but his frustration comes from wanting to do well, wanting to score goals, wanting to win. Bringing him in was a masterstroke.

Suarez and Liverpool need to be a little bit more ruthless against West Brom, though. We watched them last week on ESPN and they should have been four or five up against Norwich - Kenny will have got in his car to go home thinking 'how the hell did we not win that game'. But he'll know that, with the players Liverpool have got, if they keep on creating that many chances they'll score a lot of goals in a lot of games.

Kenny still hasn't found his best combination yet - Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam need to step up, Andy Carroll needs to force his way in, as does Jordan Henderson. Of the new signings, only Jose Enrique - who was actually the cheapest arrival - has really hit the ground running, they've all just done okay. I was a bit disappointed with Downing against Norwich and I think Adam needs to start believing that he can influence Liverpool in the way he did Blackpool. When you go to a big club it's different - the pressure is there, the crowd is bigger, the expectations are greater. Some players come through it. Some don't. Downing and Adam are experienced internationals and if they can replicate their form of last season, Liverpool will be looking good.

West Brom will be a tough game on Saturday - the Baggies have won back-to-back local derbies against Wolves and Aston Villa which is always a difficult thing to do. They're a team that could surprise people and if they beat teams like Liverpool at home, who have different ambitions, that sort of puts down a marker. It's a shame they will be without Shane Long after he was ruled out for six weeks following a really bad tackle from Alan Hutton last week. I thought he was very lucky not to even get a booking. Roy still has good attacking options with Peter Odemwingie, but Long has been excellent this season as the focal point of their attack; he's been quietly impressive and scored a few goals.

Liverpool will be on a mission, they know they dropped two points against Norwich and I think they will come out on top, but it won't be an easy ride this one - it's a difficult place to go and if there are any below par performances, West Brom have a real chance of winning a third straight game.

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