Give Roy A Little Time

May 3, 2012 1:03 pm

Roy HodsonIn a managerial appointment that has surprised, bewildered and confounded in equal measure, the English Football Association has decided to appoint Roy Hodgson as the successor to Fabio Capello as manager of the England men’s senior football team.

In a press conference called at Wembley on Tuesday 1st May, the FA General Secretary, Alex Horne, presented Hodgson to a lukewarm press and made much of the fact that Hodgson is the first English manager to take the reins, having previously had international managerial experience. How important Hodgson’s experience of tournament football will prove to be, sixteen years after he last led a team in one, cannot be predicted with any great degree of accuracy. Has the game moved on too much for a man who has been living off his reputation for at least a decade? Or have the timeless qualities of resilience and courage in the face of failure at Blackburn and Liverpool convinced the FA that Hodgson is a more steely character than meets the eye?

Much has been made of the fact that Harry Redknapp was not even interviewed for the job. With Hodgson tied to a four-year contract and Redknapp already in receipt of a free bus pass, ‘Arry’s time has surely passed for the job at the top. This apparent snub to Redknapp may not be the correct way of looking at things. Three major theories are fashionable at present.

First, the reality that – despite the FA’s insistence that no other approach to any other club or candidate was made – Redknapp was under contract at Tottenham Hotspur, and that the club’s chairman, Daniel Levy, had the upper hand in any negotiations. After the stinging criticism of Fabio Capello’s £6m-a-year salary – plus a generous payout following his departure – the FA may have been seeking to balance the books, especially with the National Football Centre looking set to run over budget. That Hodgson was out of contract on 30th June must surely have favoured him, especially when other contenders – most notably Martin O’Neill – had only just returned to management.

Secondly, the former West Ham, Portsmouth and Southampton coach has made conflicting statements about his desire for the top job and also his contentment with life at Tottenham, where the club has overachieved under his stewardship, despite their recent difficulties (which can surely not be unrelated to the Rednkapp-for-England rumours). Most importantly, given that Stuart Pierce – a likeable, honest and popular coach – had offered to take the team to the European Championships this summer, if the FA had thought that they could woo Redknapp after the Euros they surely would have taken the Pierce-Redknapp route, rather than bypass both candidates in favour of Hodgson. Clearly, something had convinced the FA that Redknapp was unavailable or would come at too high a price.

Redknapp is an avowed family man who makes the daily round trip from his mansion in Sandbanks, Dorset to the Spurs training ground. With his recent heart surgery, and given that a large part of the new managerial brief is focussed on the Academy in Burton, it is unlikely that Redknapp would uproot family and home, even for this prestigious job. For those dismissive of such seemingly babyish sensitivities, Redknapp has history on this front, as he turned down the Newcastle job citing family reasons.Harry Redknapp

Hodgson faces a tough baptism on and off the football pitch. England – perennially spluttering as an international outfit – have been drawn against France, Sweden and Ukraine, all of whom could pose serious problems on their day. The press, and thus the public, united in their calls for Redknapp, will be wary and sceptical of a man who has journeyed far and wide with qualified success. While Hodgson’s supporters point to his eight domestic titles, success as boss of Switzerland, appointment at Inter Milan and rejuvenation of Fulham and West Bromwich Albion as proof of a competent and varied career, his CV can just as easily be worked against him. His most damning failures at Liverpool and Blackburn displayed a worrying lack of flexibility and his main success has been when it has been least expected.

Most of all, however, he will have to win over a partisan England dressing room that has been beset by decades of failure and mired by personal scandal. Capello alienated his players with a strict disciplinarian regime; Steve McClaren was apparently so laid back that players would play practical jokes on him in training. Hodgson must find a middle ground that frees England from the inevitable hype and expectations, but also satisfies the media’s and fan’s desire for attractive, effective football. He must also work to sort out the personal issues of the squad: John Terry and Rio Ferdinand are not on speaking terms, following Terry’s alleged racist remark to Ferdinand jr earlier this season. The captaincy merry-go-round must be settled once and for all, and Wayne Rooney’s mercurial temper must be directed at the ball and nothing else.

Roy Hodgson has build up his reputation and seen it come crashing down before, before building it up again. Credit to him for answering his country’s call in our hour of difficulty, but he will know better than anyone that the knives have already been sharpened.

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