ROY HODGSON today targeted a prosperous festive period with Liverpool as he shrugged off speculation linking Rafa Benitez with a return to Anfield.
The Reds boss insists he doesn’t feel threatened by Benitez who is back in Wirral for the Christmas period after falling out with Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti.
Benitez is expected to part company with the European champions and that has fuelled rumours he could be reinstalled to the post he held for six years prior to his sacking in June.
When asked whether Benitez could be a contender for his job, he said: “You’d have to ask the owners about that. It would be surprising. If he was the right man for the job it would have been wiser not to let him go for six months and then have to bring him back again.
“This job will always be linked with lots of people.
“When you are in one of the top jobs in the country it would be very strange if there were not other people being linked with my job.
“I am sure there are many people who are envious of my job and would like to take my place.
“Every day I realise I’m privileged to be manager of one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
“That privilege is brought home even more when you make a hospital visit (to Alder Hey) like we did this week.
“I’m happy to be here and I’m looking forward to the challenges of 2011.”
Hodgson, who has struggled to win over Reds fans so far this season, insists his focus is on the Boxing Day trip to Blackpool.
The match is in doubt due to no undersoil heating at Bloomfield Road but Hodgson is desperately hoping it goes ahead as Liverpool look to kick off a run of five games in 15 days in style.
“I’m certainly not preparing for it to be called off and I don’t think it will be,” he said.
“I know Blackpool are working very hard to get their pitch ready and I believe they’ll succeed.
“It would be an inconvenience to have another game called off because we don’t want a fixture pile up later in the year.
“Thankfully, the weather hasn’t had any impact on our preparations at all. We’re very fortunate at Melwood to have two pitches with undersoil heating and all our training sessions have gone ahead as planned.”
With Liverpool struggling in ninth place – nine points adrift of the Champions League places and only six points above the drop zone – Hodgson knows the next fortnight is vital.
“This can be a season-changing period for every team in the Premier League,” he said.
“The top four is a good way off and some people will say it’s pie in the sky but I don’t think anything is pie in the sky in football.
“We’ve seen in the past teams who looked doomed stay up and teams like Leeds who looked certain to win the title miss out.
“There will be no boasts or promises. We’ve given ourselves a severe handicap but we have the chance to lessen that.” THE ECHO