Hodgson’s appointment splits English opinion
LONDON, May 2 — Judging by some of the negative media reaction to the FA’s decision to select Roy Hodgson as the new England manager, anyone would think he was an inexperienced beginner who had no right to be considered for the job.
Nothing could be further from the truth, as a look at the 64-year-old’s impressive CV shows.
By his own admission Hodgson was an average player with Maidstone United, Tonbridge Angels and Crystal Palace reserves in the 1960s but he is far from being an average manager, no matter what some of the football writers have said this week.
The England job is his fourth international appointment after stints with Switzerland, Finland and United Arab Emirates, and he has coached in eight countries in all.
Hodgson has not been successful everywhere — he was sacked at Blackburn Rovers in 1998 and at Liverpool last season after a six-month spell at Anfield.
On the plus side, he took unfashionable Fulham to the final of the Europa League in 2010.
In many ways England are to international football what Fulham are to the Premier League and the national team are not helped by the ludicrous expectations of a ruthless media and fans who mimic the so-called experts.
Much of the negative reaction to Hodgson’s appointment has come from the media, who have been saying for weeks that Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp was a certainty for the job.
The pundits were wrong, now therefore they are saying Hodgson is the wrong man.
However, a sense of reality may be in the air at last.
Fabio Capello’s resignation as manager in February, despite an unbeaten qualifying campaign, striker Wayne Rooney’s two-match ban — which rules him out of the first two matches — and a chronic lack of flair for next month’s European Championship have played a part in watering down optimism among the fans.
According to FA chairman David Bernstein, Hodgson could “walk into training grounds around the world and command instant respect”, with a reputation built on solid and methodical coaching principles rather than major silverware.
Then again, his eight domestic titles scattered around lesser leagues such as Sweden and Denmark are an impressive haul and he is also the first manager appointed by the FA with previous experience in an international role.
Hodgson will complete the season with West Bromwich Albion, where he has been for little more than a year, before focusing on how to make England a force at Euro 2012, where they must negotiate a group containing France, Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine.
It is a daunting task for a man who failed at Liverpool but did well at West Brom, a club who have looked sound under his guidance this season.
To his credit there was no attempt, during his news conference at Wembley yesterday, to gloss over what faces him.
“We will always go into tournaments believing we can win because we are a major football nation,” said Hodgson.
“It’s not going to be easy and it will be even more difficult on this occasion because the man who qualified the team has left and I’ve come in at a very late stage.
“It’s very important everyone gets behind the team and gets behind the players. It’s a big job to win people over and the only way I can do that is by doing the job I know I can do,” Hodgson added.
Former England midfielder and now FA technical director Trevor Brooking, who was instrumental in the appointment, said Hodgson had a tough job on his hands.
“In 2008 we didn’t qualify (for the European Championship) and in 2010 (World Cup) it was a poor tournament,” Brooking said.
“In some respects the expectancy level going out there this summer (is low) ... but I do believe Roy is a good choice who can evolve and improve this current squad.”
Bernstein dismissed suggestions Hodgson was simply a convenient choice, given he is out of contract with West Brom in June and is not costing anything in compensation, saying he was identified a month ago as the preferred candidate.
“We had a shortlist of more than two people and this wasn’t a two-man race,” Bernstein said. “I’m very happy with what we did. I think we got our timing absolutely right.”
Players such as Arsenal’s injured midfielder Jack Wilshere were quick to post Twitter comments in support of Hodgson but the manager knows his honeymoon period will probably only last until England’s friendly against Norway in Oslo on May 26. — Reuters