LONDON: The Football Association’s decision to hold talks with Roy Hodgson about the vacant England manager’s job has left soccer fans and players shocked, and the West Bromwich Albion coach keenly aware that he would have to win over a sceptical public should he take the role.
Despite winning 13 trophies on his travels through largely unfashionable clubs in Europe, the 64-year-old former Inter Milan and Liverpool boss has already been deemed ‘Mr Average’ by sections of the hard-to-please English media.
When Fabio Capello left the England job in February, Tottenham Hotspur’s manager Harry Redknapp seemed the only candidate, with former captain David Beckham heading a long, credible list calling for his appointment.
Monday’s edition of The Sun, England’s biggest selling newspaper, asked ‘why didn’t Harry get it?’ and claimed eight out of 10 fans in their poll said Hodgson was the wrong choice.
‘With the greatest respect, there’s not going to be a great wave of excitement about the appointment of Roy,’ the paper quoted Mark Perryman of the England Supporters Club as saying.
While Perryman went on to praise Hodgson’s credentials, the overwhelming feeling remained that he is second choice to Redknapp.
‘Surely Roy Hodgson can’t be the only name on the ‘list?’, former England international and Everton captain Phil Neville tweeted after the FA said they had only spoken to Hodgson.
The overwhelming support for Redknapp when Capello exited in the wake of the row over John Terry and the captaincy, had led most to believe it was a foregone conclusion that the Spurs manager would get the job he wanted.
Credited with being a strong man-manager who would be able to get the best out of a side that had failed to reach the semi-finals of a major tournament since Euro 96, Redknapp’s strengths appeared to outweigh the sceptics’ concerns that he had won only one major title in his 30-year career.
‘Harry is an excellent man-manager and I believe that Hodgson is second choice, whatever the FA says,’ former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson told the BBC.
The last obstacle had appeared to be hurdled in February when Redknapp was cleared of tax evasion, but his admission during the hearing that he is ‘the most disorganised person in the world’ and that he writes ‘like a two-year-old and can’t spell’ may have been his undoing with FA bosses.
Hodgson speaks numerous languages and is considered an astute tactician. Considered too defensive by Liverpool fans, his success at Fulham and now at West Brom have come by building from the back and counter-attacking.
His contract with West Brom, who sit 10th in the Premier League with two games remaining, is up at the end of the season and appointing him as England manager would be a much cheaper option than buying Redknapp out of his Spurs contract.
Titles in Sweden, Denmark and taking Switzerland to the 1994 World Cup — and a best ever world ranking of third — outweigh anything Redknapp has achieved but, with few English players and managers plying their trade outside of their borders, Hodgson’s past glories are often overlooked.
Couple that with an 18-month spell in charge of Blackburn Rovers, where he was sacked at the foot of the table just three years after Blackburn were crowned Premier League champions; and a poor six months in charge of Liverpool, and the pessimism becomes perhaps more understandable.
At Liverpool, Hodgson was appointed despite the fans’ clamouring for club legend Kenny Dalglish.
Six months later, Dalglish had replaced Hodgson and has been afforded far more time with fans despite an equally difficult league campaign and greater investment in the side. (Reuters)