In support of Roy Hodgson

April 30, 2012

Ah, the media frenzy is starting already and he hasn’t been officially unveiled yet…. but it seems that the new England Manager will be Roy Hodgson and not, as the media (and allegedly the fans) wanted, Harry Redknapp. And this particular England fan is actually quite happy at the prospect.

I think that one thing that has to be said is that Hodgson is going to be given a pretty rough ride – at least unless he can pull a few results out of the bag. Part of the reason for this is, in my opinion, that he starts with the media already against him – as Phil McNulty’s Blog hints at, Redknapp is something of a darling as far as the press are concerned, as he’s often very quotable and news-worthy. The more astute will of course note that this does not make him a better manager in football terms; just better as far as the media is concerned. In some ways Henry Winter summed things up nicely when he said to the BBC that Hodgson is “… a broadsheet man in a tabloid world” – but what the tabloids want, it should be kept in mind, is not necessarily that England should be successful, but that England – and their manager – should be newsworthy and help to sell papers.

Redknapp is nobody’s fool as a manager. He has, after all, won trophies, taken Spurs into the Champion’s League, and done pretty well there. You don’t get to be there without knowing what you’re doing. However, he’s not exactly what you’d call a deep thinker about the game, and for me Hodgson is the better bet. He’s got a track record in exceeding expectations with International sides, and if the FA are looking for someone to be involved with the new centre at Burton, then Hodgson surely has a better claim for that than Redknapp.

There is an element of looking at Hodgson as the safe option, and people of course then start harking back to the way that Brian Clough was not given the England job. I would argue though that the situation is a little different; Clough was overlooked essentially because the FA knew that if he came in, he would shake things up from top to bottom – which desperately needed doing – and went for someone who would be happier to maintain the status quo. With the best will in the world, I can’t see ‘Arry being the person to shake the FA to its foundations. Hodgson may not be either, but in terms of the sort of job he is likely to have to do – including working with up and coming coaches and players at Burton – he could well prove to be more effective.

The thing that is thrown at Hodgson as much as anything is his brief spell with Liverpool. Reds fans don’t like him, and there will of course be questions about how the likes of Steven Gerrard will take to playing under him again. I think though that it is worth bearing in mind the situation Hodgson came into at Anfield; they had failed to reach the Champions League, some players leaving (most notably Mascherano), the issues off the field dominating – bear in mind it that Hodgson got the chop before he had a chance to spend any of the money the new owners made available to Dalglish – and the continuing problems this season under Fans Choice Dalglish, and you get a picture of a club which had (and to an extent still has) underlying problems that would take anyone more than six months to turn around. Before that, he’d taken Fulham to the Europa League final; after, he’s made West Brom a side comfortable in mid-table against many expectations.

Hodgson will, ultimately, be judged on results, but again we have to look at what we expect those results to be. England are n0t a great side, although they are a good one, but whenever there’s a major championships it seems that anything less than winning the tournament is presented by the tabloids (and some fans) as unacceptable. Yet in reality, England are technically and tactically behind the World’s best teams. Can we really hold a candle to Spain? Do we have a talent to come close to the likes of Messi? Can we match the tactics and technical skills of  the Netherlands, of Germany?

We need to get real. The only major tournament we’ve won was on home soil, more than 45 years ago. We’ve reached one Word Cup Semi since, and that was more than 20 years ago. The last time we reached the Euro semis was again on home soil, 16 years ago. Reality is that we’re performing at about expectations if we reach the quarter finals in a major tournament, and exceeding them if we go beyond that. Given the time he’s got, if Hodgson qualifies from the group stage at the Euros, he’s doing a good job. Whether the press will see things in the same light is another matter of course…..