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A Season of Two Halves.

Liverpool may have missed out on European football for the first time since 1999, but the club's outlook appears brighter than most fans would have imagined only eight months ago.

Throughout September and October last year, the club's future looked less certain. Ongoing boardroom battles, and a threat of administration and points deductions were combined with performances and results which barely left anything to be too positive about.

Fast forward to May, and the picture couldn't look more different.

The first half of the season began with Liverpool's unpopular owners appointing a manager who fans never warmed to. The second involved the club's new owners bringing in one of the most popular figures in LFC history to take charge for the remainder of the season.

It was only then in which the atmosphere of the whole club seemed to change.

Roy Hodgson isn't a bad coach. He's told us himself that he's not a bad coach, and the job he did at Fulham as well as that he has since done at West Brom confirm that. Hodgson clearly felt he would be capable of doing a job with a Liverpool side which had underachieved in their previous season, but unfortunately the Liverpool job proved too big a challenge and his short tenure went almost as badly as it possibly could have.

The early fixtures weren't kind to Liverpool, and included away trips to Man City, Man United and Everton in the first four away games. But when defeats in those games were added to by home losses against Blackpool and Northampton Town, who lay second bottom of the entire football league at the time, an immense pressure was on Hodgson from an early stage.

As Rafa Benitez had found out, working for Gillett and Hicks was hardly the best environment in which to manage one of the country's top teams. The instability surrounding LFC, caused by the Gillett and Hicks' attempts to sell the club for a huge profit was never going to do anything to help Hodgson, but amidst the chaos going on all around him, the former Fulham boss was guilty of his own contributions to a season which headed from one new low to another.

The mood changed off the pitch when New England Sports Ventures completed a hard fought takeover of the club. On the pitch, the results improved but remained inconsistent. The high point was a win over league leaders Chelsea, but five defeats in the two months which followed were to seal Hodgson's fate and mark a return to the dugout for Kenny Dalglish.

Since January, the smiles have been back at Anfield, not least on the face of the man tasked with leading the club towards bigger and better things.

A host of young players have excelled, particularly full backs Jack Robinson and John Flanagan, and squad players such as Maxi Rodriguez who were deemed not good enough for Liverpool not long ago, have had far more of a positive impact as the season has progressed.

When also considering the impact made by Luis Suarez since his arrival, and the performances of Lucas, Dirk Kuyt and, when fit, Raul Meireles, there is much reason for a renewed sense of optimism.

It would be easy to suggest that with a few changes in personnel Liverpool could be competing for the title next season, but no side have gone on to be crowned champions having been so far away the previous season as Liverpool have been to Man United this year. A lot can potentially be achieved if the club continues to progress, but a sense of realism must remain.

However there's no reason why, with the right signings, Liverpool can't be amongst the mix of teams at the top, rather than on the fringes of those sides, competing for the right to play Champions League football once again.

At this stage, anything beyond that for next season would be a bonus. But at least Liverpool fans can finally relax at the end of a season, safe in the knowledge that those in charge will be doing everything possible to help the club towards a successful season.

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