He may not be Redknapp, but Hodgson’s credentials stand him in good stead.
So, the search for the man to replace Fabio Capello as England manager is finally over, and former Inter Milan, Liverpool and Fulham manager Roy Hodgson is the lucky man to take over the reins. It has taken almost three months to replace Capello, but I believe that it has been worth the wait. Many have seen this appointment as a controversial move, but I personally think the English Football Association have been wise in appointing Hodgson, judging by the amount of experience he has had at international managerial level, and the amount of success he has had at club level.
But first let’s look at the man himself, and at what he has done for the FA to warrant offering him the hardest job in football. He is probably most well known around the managerial world for his achievements in the Swedish leagues. Starting his managerial career in 1976 at Halmstads, he won two league titles, and while at Malmo FF he won five successive league titles and two Swedish Cups. He then went on to manage Inter Milan, and got them into the final of the UEFA Cup Final in 1985. What still remains to be one of his finest achievements was his work at Fulham from 2008. Saving them from relegation just after joining them, he took them to the Europa League final, famously defeating Juventus in the semi-finals. Before being offered the England job, Hodgson had been managing West Bromwich Albion, who are currently 10th place in the Premier League, their highest position ever. More importantly though regarding the England job, he has had a lot of international experience, a credential no other England manager has had, taking Switzerland to their first World Cup in 30 years in 1992, while guiding a weak Finland team desperately close to qualifying for Euro 2008. Despite having poor managerial records at Liverpool and Blackburn among others, the rest of his achievements make up an impressive CV that seems suitable and experienced enough for the England job.
With the European Championships just around the corner, few are expecting England to particularly flourish, whoever the new England manager would have been. Under Capello the team hardly set the world alight, while the new manager will hardly have any time to properly implement his new ideas. To make matters worse, star striker Wayne Rooney is banned for the first two games after getting sent off in the last competitive match. Yet at the press conference, Hodgson still remained in a positive mood about the tournament saying ‘We go into tournaments to win them, we’re a major football nation’. The general concensus from the conference was that this is an appointment for the long term, FA Chairman David Bernstein saying; ‘he has experience of major tournaments…that can only help us when we plan for Brazil 2014 (the next World Cup)’.
Despite his excellent managerial credentials, Hodgson has been seen by many as a controversial appointment. This is because the favourite to take over was Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp. A likeable character, with his teams playing successful attractive football and being a ‘die-hard’ England fan, it seemed like a no-brainer to appoint him. He is very popular among all England fans, and many will be gutted that he is not manager. Even England players publicly backed him when Capello resigned. Rooney wrote on his Twitter page ‘Gutted capello’s quit. Got to be english to replace him. Harry redknapp for me’, while former captain Rio Ferdinand tweeted ‘Harry Redknapp would be my choice by a distance’. One of Hodgson’s most important jobs is to get the players on his side as quickly as possible, and comments like that won’t help.
Bernstein publicly stated that Hodgson had been the only manager the FA approached, meaning that they had not even properly spoken to Redknapp. During the press conference Bernstein refused to comment on any other managers, but did insist that it was not a two horse race and that the board unanimously chose Hodgson. Besides, even if they wanted Redknapp they would have had to pay in excess of £10million to Tottenham in compensation fees as he is still under contract with them. Now, this may have made Hodgson seem like the ‘cheap option’, but if I was in the FA I would not have wanted to spend a load of money on someone who is undoubtedly a good manager but is untested at international level, especially since Capello was being paid £6million a year and turned out to be an expensive mistake. What I liked about Hodgson’s attitude at the press conference was that he knew he wasn’t the favourite for the job. He spoke highly of Redknapp, saying ‘I hope we will remain friends’ and ‘He’s dealt well with it and I appreciate it’, while also accepting how hard the task will be. Early signs show that he is an honest man, and that honesty should hopefully rub off on the players.
The British media’s role in football will make his job particularly difficult however. They championed the idea of giving the job to Redknapp, and because of this Hodgson will be constantly under the spotlight, with the newspapers waiting to pounce on one mistake or one sign of weakness. As has been shown in the past towards England managers such as Capello, Steve McClaren and Sven Goran Eriksson, a few bad results and the media will constantly put you under immense pressure. By galvanising support for Redknapp, it is obvious who the media favour, which means it will be even harder for Hodgson to get on their side. However, there has been a certain amount of positivity that have come out of the press even in the last few hours. A confident first press conference, which you can see here, has turned some heads, while players have started to come out and show their support. Liverpool midfielder and former player of Hodgson’s, Steven Gerrard has said ‘He’s a good man and a good manager. I’m looking forward to working with him again’, while Arsenal youngster Jack Wilshere tweeted ‘For England…good choice’. I am sure more will get on his side in the coming days.
Anyway, forget all about the talk of whether he’s good or not. The sensible ones among us will know not to judge him properly until he has had enough time in charge. What Hodgson reiterated time and time again in the press conference was a plea to give him and his team a chance, to show support and get behind the boys. Hopefully he won’t be judged if we do badly in the Euros, but he should certainly not be judged at all by anyone now.