From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.35 :: NO.20 :: May. 17, 2012
Newly appointed England manager Roy Hodgson has a tough time ahead.
Roy Hodgson might not be the most popular appointment as manager of England.
He might not have Harry Redknapp's penchant for a ready quip. His intelligent and meticulous nature might not appeal to those whose puerile reaction was to ridicule him for not being able to pronounce his R's.
But Hodgson's appointment might just prove to be the best decision the Football Association have made since they matched the uplifting talents of Terry Venables with the buoyant mood of English football in the lead-up to Euro '96.
Top jobs are all about timing and expectation. It would be one thing following Sir Alex Ferguson into the managerial chair at Old Trafford. It would be quite another trying to emulate his unparalleled success over a quarter of a century.
The same applies to Pep Guardiola's successor in Barcelona.
Hodgson has taken the England job when expectations have reached their lowest ebb, considering in the last four and a half years supporters have watched England, under Steve McClaren, fail to qualify for the last European Championships while England's World Cup in South Africa two years ago under Fabio Capello degenerated into a shambles.
True, Capello's team went undefeated in qualifying for Euro 2012 but their group was one of the least taxing, and even then they drew home and away with Montenegro with performances which left much to be desired.
No one expects England to win Euro 2012. No one seriously believes they can progress further than the quarterfinals in a competition containing such vibrant attacking forces as Spain, Holland and Germany. Many believe England could struggle to emerge from a tricky group including Sweden, France and joint-host Ukraine.
Hodgson will thrive on that. If Hodgson followers have gleaned anything from his 36 years in football it is that he does his best work when there is a lack of expectation.
He specialises in galvanising unheralded individuals and turning under-achieving teams into forces beyond what they could have imagined.
He took Switzerland to the World Cup finals in 1994, that same year England failed to qualify. He has won national championships in Sweden and Denmark. He took Fulham to the Europa Cup final and has performed a seriously impressive job in consolidating West Brom as a mid-table English Premier League side.
Yes, he failed at Liverpool amid takeover turmoil and the shadow of fans' choice Kenny Dalglish, but it is the one blemish on his CV and occurred when expectations far outweighed reality at a club struggling to accept the slide from its illustrious past. Yet, amid the endless phone-ins and column inches which greeted Hodgson's appointment, ranging from senseless rant to reasoned approval to ambivalence, the voice of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard perhaps was the most constructive.
Gerrard said: “Roy is a good manager. I've worked with him before but I think he took the Liverpool job at the wrong time. My opinion of him has not changed before he got the (Liverpool) job, while he had the job and after it. He was very good technically, very thorough, a great guy and very loyal among the players.”
The England players, most of whom have never worked with Hodgson, might still take some convincing, considering their relative silence on Twitter following his appointment.
But a few days into the job I would say Hodgson has made a start.
He was decisive on Wayne Rooney saying he would be picked despite missing the first two group games because of suspension. He moved to solve the John Terry-Rio Ferdinand impasse. He was upbeat and patriotic and eloquent with no rash promises but also no false modesty.
Hodgson does not appear fazed by not being the fans' choice. He can live with not being Redknapp. In hiring Hodgson the FA rejected populism and chose a man of genuine substance who deserves his chance.
The timing might just turn out to be perfect.
If managing a football club is all about an eye for a player and making the most of the tightest of budgets then Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa at Newcastle are compelling proof that Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is, by some distance, the manager of the year.
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