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By Matthew Handley
Proposition: Ben Crome argues that Hodgson is not up to the England job
Spare a thought for the fans of West Bromwich Albion, for the man who has spearheaded the Black Country renaissance, Roy Hodgson, has been persuaded to swap the Baggies for the Three Lions.
It is even more unfortunate for English football fans, as the FA have followed their ham-fisted management of Fabio Capello’s departure with the distinctly underwhelming appointment of Hodgson. Hodgson is a talented coach, having taken Fulham to a European final and transforming Switzerland into the third-best team in the world.
But the problem with Hodgson is that he has only enjoyed success with average players, relying on 4-4-2 and endless hard work on the training ground. Whenever Hodgson has found himself in charge of individually-gifted players – Roberto Carlos at Inter, Steven Gerrard at Liverpool – he has invariably floundered.
And what kind of message does it sent to England’s star performers that the FA thinks so little of their chances of success that they’ve gone for a safe pair of hands over a manager who can truly harness their potential? The alternative candidate and media favourite, Harry Redknapp, is nothing short of a master motivator. Witness the transformations of Luka Modrić and Gareth Bale under Redknapp’s tutelage. If any manager can coax the best out of Wayne Rooney on a world stage, it is surely Redknapp.
Redknapp’s detractors point to his infamous instructions for substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko to ‘fucking run about a bit’. But at Euro 2012, England will not be able to match the intricate possession football of the Spanish or the lethal counter-attacking of the Germans. The blueprint was laid when the hero of England’s victory over Spain was Scott Parker, a player who has based his career on ‘fucking running about a bit’.
Hodgson’s supposed advantage is that under him, English football will evolve into an all-embracing organisation, from the first team to the schoolboy ranks. However, what happens if England fail to qualify for the World Cup in 2014? Hodgson will be sacked, and his long-term vision in tatters. Brazil consistently win trophies with a high turnover of managers: continuity is no guarantee of success in international football, while Hodgson will not change the fact that clubs will only allow the FA a minute role in youth development.
The FA cannot avoid the unspeakable truth that Hodgson was a conservative choice. Redknapp may have been acquitted after his tax evasion case, but that he was in court in the first place may explain why he lost out to Hodgson. This appointment will only continue England’s mediocrity.
Rebuttal: Tom Ough sees the new England manager as an astute appointment
Judging by the reaction, the FA’s appointment of Roy Hodgson as new England manager was an underwhelming one. The tabloids had little to offer other than mockery; the players’ Twitter accounts were deafeningly silent. But though Harry Redknapp would have been the populist choice, he would have been the wrong one.
The FA were keen to stress Hodgson’s record, and, by anyone’s standards, it is an impressive one. Scandinavian silverware may not be the hardest to obtain, but, at the Halmstads helm, Hodgson turned them from relegation fodder into title winners, before jumping ship to lead an era of unprecedented success at Malmo. At Internazionale, the feat of reaching a UEFA Cup final was far more difficult than scaling the heights of the Europa League today, with more of the continent’s cream involved.
This European record is another part of Hodgson’s impressive CV. Continental football is much more akin to international football than domestic, with its high-stakes matches and emphasis on possession. Hodgson has not only the Inter final to his name, but also the scalp of the same team when in charge of Malmo, while Fulham’s run in the 2010 competition was as impressive as it was unlikely. Granted, Redknapp’s boys were outstanding in dispatching both Milan clubs last season, but Hodgson has made a habit of leading remarkable European campaigns.
His international record also speaks volumes, taking Switzerland to the 1994 World Cup finals, a feat which eluded England, as well as hoisting them to an unprecedented third in the FIFA World Rankings. More recently, Hodgson took Finland to the brink of the Euro 2008 play-offs, with an sterling defensive record that would not be unwelcome with England.
Strong though Hodgson’s CV is, he is also notable for his tactical acumen. With a history of naïveté at the highest level, England could do with a manager who was forward-thinking enough to have pioneered zonal marking in Northern Europe; Hodgson has served on the technical study group of both UEFA and FIFA at their tournaments. This bespeaks a man who is entirely comfortable with the tactical demands of football’s highest level; Liverpool is a blot on the Hodgson copybook, but, in mitigation, he was given neither time nor the support of his owners.
Finally, let us consider the new demands of the England job; the manager will now head up the St George’s Park operation, supporting and overseeing the youth teams to a far greater degree than absentee predecessors such as Fabio Capello. More than any other candidate, Hodgson has the acumen to meet these requirements, and to do so with excellence. Hodgson’s Roy of the Rovers story is not yet complete. Bring on the Euros.