England: A Final Adventure For ‘Bridesmaid’ Hodgson Was Irresistible…But Can He Succeed?
And so it is. After the hasty exit of Fabio Capello in February, nearly three football months have unfolded before the name of the next England manager – aside from the interim Stuart Pearce – has been revealed to the public. What the name may lack in being exciting, stimulating and forward-thinking, it makes up for with pure astonishment and surprise.
Indeed, West Brom manager Roy Hodgson remains the only English candidate to be approached by the FA in their search for a brand spanking new manager and surprisingly Harry Redknapp’s name was exiled.
Hodgson held talks on Monday and save a dramatic turn of events will most probably be offered the job he has previously been quoted as saying he would be ‘delighted’ and ‘honoured’ to accept.
When going against the populist choice, a mixed reaction was always to be expected. A long-standing member of the England supporter's club has already cast doubt over the integrity of the FA’s decision and demanded an explanation as to why the vacant Spurs managers name was not at least considered. Comments on forums are already lamenting the appointment and branding it ‘prehistoric’ and in all honesty, humouring Roy Hodgson.
The choice bizarre; Hodgson’s football derided as glib and prosy; his mentality fragmented and unable to deal with the pressures and torments the England job – the most tense football position in the country – will inevitably force upon the very foundations of a well travelled man.
On the flipside, we have those who sympathise with Roy; in fact, those who are actually offering him the advice to reject the position and continue to work with West Brom. The justification for this school of thought is that Hodgson is a ‘nice’ man and an ‘intelligent, harmless’ figure in football, and the English manager job is a position which has broken and humiliated greater managers than Hodgson. Just look at the opprobrium surrounding Fabio Capello.
The success we demand as a country is nearly unparalleled in football; it is abject and a quick glance to the history books is the only evidence we need when putting forward the argument that nearly every manager who has attempted to satisfy the ‘Ingerland’ faithful – and the media – has been cast away. Yet within those comments lie the very monotonously abject cliché that Hodgson will so desperately wish to struggle free from. Not one manager in the world wants to be considered too ‘nice’ for a job.
Hodgson has had a wide and varied career in football, and one which is flux full of achievement. From guiding Switzerland to the knockout stages of the 1994 World Cup, to lifting titles in Denmark, so nearly taking Finland to Euro 2008 and overlooking that wondrous Fulham journey to the Europa League final; Hodgson is well-travelled and many clubs have benefited from the glow of his deft and adroit hands. Yet the cliché still remains; that he is a ‘humble’ manager.
In fact, the old analysis of Hodgson’s managerial abilities are usually splinted together with the nicety of how he is ‘average’. Is he average? Achievements in his career would suggest slightly above average. Yet either way, large and spotlighted opportunities like managing his own country to International tournaments have either passed him by (England two years ago) or ended miserably (Liverpool). Demonstrably few men wish to receive plaudits for middle of the road finishes with average players.
Fewer men still are given opportunities to succeed with large and prestigious institutions and the adventure Hodgson will soon embark on will most probably be his final opportunity to become anything more than the ‘bridesmaid’ he recently referred himself to as.
Those who implore him to reject the job miss the point. Hodgson could stay with West Brom, achieve admirable mid-table finishes and even push for a European spot. Yet he has covered this ground before; it is old hat to an ageing manager. What Hodgson desires is what we all desire; the unknown. The adventure, the opportunity to become more than ‘a mid-table manager’.
Liverpool was an ‘unknown’ adventure – yet within half a season Hodgson had capitulated in a media whirlwind of piss, wind and poor results. Taking on England is a risk any manager worth his salt would weigh up before jumping head first into the firing line, yet it is that very ‘risk’ which Hodgson will find so irresistible. Rejecting the chance would be too easy; too safe; too unadventurous for a 64 year old with only a few years left to tot up on his managerial resume.
It could all end in tears. In fact, the role of the media may make sure it ends in tears. But if Hodgson does end up with egg on his face – like that of his Liverpool reign – at least he could take solace in the fact that he gambled upon some kind of an adventure, as opposed to one which he has already proven himself in with Fulham and West Brom.
The obvious question: can Hodgson succeed? The simple answer is a firm ‘yes’. But ‘Uncle Woy’ must look to his Liverpool failings as a firm blueprint for what went wrong and draw up an entirely new sketch. Hodgson has form working with big players from his Inter Milan days – where his work was patchy – but at Liverpool he perpetuated wins as ‘tremendous achievements’ and seemed irritable; flailing within the intensity of the spotlight focused upon him.
At England, it will be twice as potent; the ruckus twice as rough and the speculation twice as tense. This environment is not for the faint of heart and akin to a bearpit. Hodgson, like most, will not have felt this bearpit before.
The pro-Redknapp media may take unkindly to him but he must ride the waves and instill confidence in a dressing room which has always been nervous, but with the Terry scandal is now apparently fractured. It is true that Hodgson gets the most out of average talent, yet it goes without saying that the England job will be harder; a large part of his objective will be to refine his overachieving-with-mundanity skills even further when you look at the larger and more complex ego’s, and the bitter abdication to failure which seems to plague the side.
He must give youth a chance – preferably blooding some talent in at Euro 2012 – and try to sculpt his own legacy upon the décor. And as fans we must give Hodgson – a man with deep International experience and knowledge – more respect than writing him off before he enters the gates.
After a quick check at his vast and impressive experience – along with the assumption Hodgson will be playing the touchy England job game skilfully and in the right way – and Roy can most certainly succeed with a team so used to failing.
So it’s over to Roy; experienced, in my opinion adequate and about to wilder into the opportunity of a large, complexly difficult job. Roy’s adventure – one which if successful will taste far sweeter than any ‘humble’ or ‘gentlemanly’ niceties he currently savors’ – begins in Polkraine.
Calling all England fans. What are your views on Roy Hodgson? Is he the right man for the job? What do you think he will bring to the post? Should Harry Redknapp have been interviewed? Would the Spurs boss have got more out of this team? Whatever your views we'd love to hear from you.