So now we all know. After weeks of speculation and a pretty poor game of Guess Who, we know the identity of the man installed at the helm to guide the England football team to supposed glory. The man, who finally got the job, wasn’t the man who everyone expected to get the job. Instead of people’s favourite Harry Redknapp, the Football Association (FA) took a calculated and informed punt on Roy Hodgson.
At Elysium we were surprised by the reaction of the majority. In many ways Hodgson is the right man for the job at this moment in time. A cool head that’s able to keep his composure when many around him are hysterical with hype of England’s chances of sweeping all before them at the European Championships this summer. Hugely experienced and knowledgeable of the game, and perhaps more crucially out of contract this summer so not incurring any hefty sums of compensation, Hodgson’s appointment looks right when counting up all the ticked boxes.
He has, however, been thrown in at the deep end. Stepping into the England hot seat on the eve of a major tournament is essentially mission impossible and nothing should be expected of Hodgson to deliver Euro glory. First he needs to address the team – the task of working with a group of players that at times resembles an old boys club. Cliques from the Chelsea and Liverpool teams remain, whilst there is a number of conflicts amongst players to be resolved (e.g. John Terry’s racial allegations against Rio Ferdinand’s brother Anton to name the most high profile). In many ways it’s a bit like Agent Q handling a squad of rogue 007’s hell bend on a culture of champagne WAGs, expensive luxuries and pampered egos. Hodgson will need all his managerial acumen amassed through a lengthy career to control this one.
The team will need to come together if they are to survive a very tough group that includes both France and Sweden, which is tough. Doing it without the best English player of the last 10 years, Wayne Rooney, suspended for the first two group games, is a monumentally tough task. Even if Hodgson does get it right on the night and escapes the group unscathed, world class danger in the shape of Spain, Germany and Holland all lie in wait. It’s a huge ask made even bigger task when there is just 36 days left to prepare (while simultaneously managing his current club side West Brom for the last two games of the season too).
More on the Hodgson vs. Redknapp debate – Hodgson has managed three countries at international level; Switzerland (qualifying for the 1994 World Cup), the United Arab Emirates (an ‘experience’ he called it), and Finland. Most crucially he’s had big tournament experience, something Redknapp lacks in any shape or form and which Fabio Capello realised too late with England’s abysmal showing at the 2010 World Cup. Redknapp might have been the popular choice because he’s media friendly and will provide good copy, but his managerial record of one FA Cup win with Portsmouth is hardly solid justification of his credentials.
People talk about the ‘blip’ that was Hodgson’s time at Liverpool but his Premier League stats for the club stand in comparison with Kenny Dalglish’s record since talking over. Hodgson’s record at Fulham was impressive, talking the cup to the Europa Cup final, whilst he has big club experience when managing Inter Milan in the 90s.
The thing about Hodgson is that he’s a details man. He likes to talk players through set pieces and defensive responsibilities as thoroughly as he sees fit. It’s an element that could benefit the side given their habitual loss of concentration at international level. At this stage in his long, often nomadic, career managing England seems the final chapter. Expectation will not be as high given all that has happened, whilst many have totally written him off within days of his appointment. At Elysium Towers we’re a firm believer in giving someone a fair crack of the whip before passing judgement. We therefore hope that Mr Hodgson proves the doubters wrong. At the end of the day, those who follow football are often a fickle bunch. A couple of victories will soon see moral restored and support shouted from previously spiteful mouths. Give the guy a break; he’s the new England manager – our hopes and expectations lie in his managerial skill to craft the best team for the occasion. C’mon England!