Hodgson Deserves More Respect

30 04 2012

You have to hand it to the Twitter comedians…they can take the Mickey out of just about anything in 140 characters and not for the first time Roy Hodgson was their target on Sunday night.

Barely had the FA press release gone live and ‘Woy’ was getting the full treatment – ‘Top Tweets’ included…”Someplace, somewhere, Paul Konchesky is packing his bags. #ontheplane #woy” (@gunnerblog) – “Gweat News!! Cwistian Poulsens Gwandad is English. Wegards. Woy.” (@DFImpressionist). “The awkward moment when the press ask Woy about the world rankings.” (@RobertoMancini_). The last one’s clearly a parody account!

Roy Hodgson has a speech impediment. We get it. Time to move on now?!

Along with the comments intended to get a laugh, there was a whole load of vitriol too – of the more level-headed reactions the most complimentary described Hodgson as a ‘safe pair of hands during a transition’, but the vast majority were repulsed by the thought of him becoming England manager.

The words ‘smokescreen’ and ‘Harry Redknapp’ have been mentioned, but the F.A say Hodgson is the only person they’ve approached, so we have to presume the West Brom manager is their preferred option.

If that’s true it’s a very brave move from the Football Association, who can now expect a firestorm of protest from the media and public. Harry Redknapp might not have universal approval but he’s about as close as you’re going to get to it. What we don’t know for sure is whether the Tottenham manager actually wants the job.

The arguments for appointing Redknapp are well versed and understandable, but this isn’t a popularity contest and if you look purely at Hodgson’s CV, it’s hard to argue against him being a very strong candidate.

Thirty-six years as a head coach, in eight countries, at clubs including Internazionale, Liverpool, Malmo, FC Copenhagen, Udinese and Blackburn Rovers – a little under a decade of international management experience with Switzerland (1992-1995), United Arab Emirates (2002-2004) and Finland (2006-2007).

His first job came at Swedish side Halmstads BK at the age of 28 in 1976, for whom Hodgson secured a first-ever top-flight league title in the same year – since then he’s won six more Swedish league titles (1979, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989), two Swedish Cup (1985-86, 1988-89), a Danish league title (2000-01), and a Danish Super Cup (2001).

The fact he’s reached sixty-four without considerably more medals to stick on the mantle piece must be frustrating, but I’m sure Hodgson would point to a UEFA Cup Final with Inter in 1997, a UEFA Europa League Final with Fulham in 2010 and the title of LMA Manager of the Year in 2010.

He might not have won anything at international level but is particularly well remembered for the job he did with Switzerland – leading the nation to the 1994 World Cup from a group that included Italy and Portugal and going on to reach the tournament’s last 16 – he then ensured qualification for UEFA Euro ’96 before leaving the post to join Internazionale.

Time in charge of the UAE and Finland were less productive, indeed Roy Hodgson has clearly had several low-points throughout his entire managerial career, most notably in the north-west of England.

Despite the respect he’s earned around the globe, short spells in charge of Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool are arguably the main reasons why Hodgson is seen by many in his home country as an average manager who can’t handle the big-time.

He’s perceived, rightly or wrongly, to have ‘found his level’ at clubs whose primary objective every year is to achieve Premier League survival – the reality is that Hodgson is the most successful English coach of the last twenty-five years, along with the late, great Sir Bobby Robson.

The old friends actually met up at Fulham’s training ground in December 2008, when Hodgson was in charge at Craven Cottage, giving Sir Bobby the chance to have a look round the club where his own managerial career had begun in 1968.

It’s said that during their chat Sir Bobby repeatedly told the then 62-year-old Hodgson not to retire, sternly insisting he had another five years left in him. Whether Sir Bobby ever thought that would include a tilt at his old job we’ll never know.

What I can take an educated guess at, is that one of the wisest and most respected English coaches of all-time would be disappointed to see another man being subjected to the sort of disdain and ridicule he often faced himself, before it all came good in 1990.

It makes you wonder if we learn anything from history in a country that’s hardly blessed with a wealth of experienced coaches, particularly not the type who’ve managed major European clubs clubs like Inter and Liverpool and repeatedly experienced the different demands of international management.

Even putting those things to one side, this is an Englisman who speaks five different languages and is so well respected on the continent that he’s been invited to be a member of UEFA’s technical study group at the European Championships on several occasions.

Roy Hogdson might not be perfect, he’s certainly made mistakes and there’s no guarantee he’d get England beyond their quarter-final ceiling this summer, but the very least he deserves is a bit of respect.



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