Hodgson escapes Dalglish's shadow
Roy Hodgson spent 191 days at Liverpool failing spectacularly to escape from Kenny Dalglish's shadow - but emerged into the light with perfect timing as his rehabilitation continued at The Hawthorns.
Hodgson, sacked in January after a brief and tortuous Liverpool tenure, admitted he fought a losing battle with Dalglish's iconic status after beating the Scot in the race to succeed Rafael Benitez.
He walked alone at Anfield as The Kop demanded Dalglish's return with every setback, helped by the ammunition provided for them by Hodgson in the shape of poor results and signings of the standard of Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen.
Hodgson side-stepped all talk of revenge as Dalglish watched from close quarters while his predecessor enjoyed the satisfaction of The Baggies' vital 2-1 win against the club that dispensed with his services so swiftly.
And, while hardly expecting Hodgson to draw solace from such a scar on his record, it is almost impossible to escape the conclusion that this has turned into a "win-win" for both West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool.
Albion now have an experienced manager who already looks a more comfortable fit at The Hawthorns than he did at any stage on Merseyside - while Liverpool now have a manager who, unlike Hodgson, has a firm grip on the aspirations and expectations at Anfield.
Dalglish could not match his Liverpool predecessor when the pair met at the Hawthorns
Dalglish is the better man to lead Liverpool, while Hodgson has the credentials suited to reviving West Bromwich Albion. Everyone is a winner - despite the latter's obvious and understandable pain at his Anfield fate.
Hodgson looked relaxed in his surroundings on Saturday, in sharp contrast to his time at Liverpool when events, not always of his making it should be stressed, quickly spiralled out of control.
It was often a painful business watching Hodgson operating at Liverpool, haunted by defeat and unloved by a fan base who wasted no time in deciding he was not to their taste or liking.
Not so here. Hodgson was dignified and measured in victory as he can reflect on a satisfactory start in midlands, but with the main business of securing top-flight status still some way from conclusion.
Anyone expecting ill-feeling between Hodgson and Dalglish would have been sorely disappointed. Dalglish went to greet Hodgson warmly in the technical area before kick-off with a pat on the shoulder and a handshake that was reciprocated with smiles. The significance of the moment could be measured by the number of cameras there to record it.
Dalglish, despite the early loss of Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger to injury, looked as though he may condemn Hodgson to another miserable afternoon in Liverpool's company when Martin Skrtel headed them in front.
But Albion are responding to Hodgson's promptings in a manner that was rarely in evidence at Liverpool and they recovered to win courtesy of two Chris Brunt penalties, the first when Sotirios Kyrgiakos was harshly adjudged to have fouled the game's outstanding performer Peter Odemwingie, who was then hauled down by Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina for the dramatic winner two minutes from time.
Hodgson was in no mood for gloating or points-scoring when I asked him had he gleaned any extra pleasure from the victory against the club he was not considered good enough for.
"I made a lot of friends at Liverpool," he told me. "I have a lot of time and respect for the players while the coaching staff worked very loyally for me, so I don't take any particular pleasure at all in that.
"The great pleasure I take is in beating Liverpool Football Club as I know this is something we don't do very often, but we did it, and we did it deservedly."
Hodgson did not make many friends among Liverpool's fans and the scorn they still retain for the former manager was evident in a banner in the visitors' section that read: "Thanks For The Grey Hair Roy."
No such discontent around The Hawthorns as Albion's supporters gave Hodgson a hero's reception after watching them rise to 12th in the Premier League and demonstrate the neat, organised football that was a hallmark of his success at Fulham, as opposed to his struggles at Liverpool.
Odemwingie's pace terrorised Liverpool and sparked the uncertainty that led to the two spot-kicks, while Chris Brunt is an energetic and creative force who will be a pivotal figure for Hodgson.
Dalglish, whose permanent appointment should be confirmed soon despite this setback, will do his major work in the summer and even here his plans were disrupted by those early injury departures.
He has started to put rebuilding blocks in place in attack with Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll - but the pair enjoy contrasting fortunes.
Uruguayan Suarez looks worth every penny of the £23m handed over to Ajax, a menacing presence throughout. He almost snatched an equaliser twice in stoppage time, first with a shot that was superbly saved by keeper Scott Carson and then a lob headed off the line by Nicky Shorey.
Carroll, the £35m arrival from Newcastle United, struggled throughout and was sidetracked early on by rough treatment from Albion's defence and the taunts from the home gallery.
And once he picked up a booking from referee Martin Atkinson, who did little to protect him early on, Carroll was a subdued figure, short of fitness and perhaps fearful of that second yellow card.
Dalglish will nurture a style that still needs reconstruction and refinement and his best days are ahead - because this was not one of them.
Whether he wanted to play along with the plotline or not, this was Hodgson's day. He expressed quiet delight with his triumph but few could forgive him, or begrudge him, for dancing a little inside.