So the FA have stopped dithering around and finally decided that England do need a permanent manager before Euro 2012. About two months too late. Their choice of the man to fulfil that task has come as more of a surprise though. Reports that our governing body have approached West Brom for their manager Roy Hodgson were met with more than a few raised eyebrows, especially from the red half of Merseyside.
The 64-year-old has previously stated he would be ‘delighted to manage his country’ in an interview with BBC Sport and it looks like he may get that opportunity as the Baggies have granted him permission to speak with the FA. Out of contract on the 30th of June, Hodgson appears to fit the bill for the FA, he has international managerial experience before with Switzerland, Finland and the United Arab Emirates. You don’t get more dugout experience than Hodgson, indeed he has racked up 18 clubs during his illustrious career, with Inter Milan and Liverpool the most eye-catching names on that list. His friendly, likeable image will give him a head start in the most challenging of jobs where facing the media is concerned (at least initially), while everyone in England is well aware of his sound tactical knowledge that helped Fulham into the Europa League final, possibly his greatest achievement of all.
You can’t help but feel that the FA are taking a rather conservative approach in appointing Hodgson. Undoubtedly, everyone expected a certain Mr Redknapp to be appointed, but perhaps his court appearance hasn’t done him any favours. ‘Arry isn’t the most savoury figure in English football and maybe a few figures in the FA (most probably the secretaries) remember Sven’s antics and the bad press inches he brought to the job that distracted attention away from the team. Redknapp may have been the people’s choice, but it appears the FA never really fancied him. There really weren’t many other candidates, especially with the determination to appoint an Englishman and the only other viable candidate was probably Stuart Pearce, who had to pick up the pieces of the Capello debacle.
Roy appears to be on the verge of landing a long-term deal, a decision which can only be described as baffling. The FA were stung by throwing that huge contract at Capello which meant they couldn’t realistically sack him after the South African disaster and Hodgson is already starting with the doubters sharpening their pens ready for failure. A poor performance at Euro 2012 and the pressure will be firmly on Hodgson, just three months into the job! The FA have made a point of insisting Hodgson was always their first choice for the role, but why didn’t they just approach West Brom immediately if that was the case. You have to wonder if Spurs’ recent awful run of form has played some part in their decision as well. You also have to question other reasoning behind this appointment. It could well be that they see Roy as a bit of a ‘yes man’ who will merely manage the team on the field without causing any embarrassing incidents off it. The FA could do without any Capello-esque situations where the England manager was determined to stamp his authority in all aspects of the job.
Hodgson will certainly throw his all at the job, there’s no doubting that, but to what success? The highest pressure environment he has worked in came at Anfield and look how that turned out. The Liverpool players never took to his methodological approach and attention to detail and Roy never managed to turn the team’s fortunes around once the fans got on his back. He may have worked wonders at Fulham, and to some extent West Brom, but is Hodgson really cut out for the high pressure situations?
It reminds me worryingly of, dare I say it, Steve McLaren’s appointment, when the FA plumped for a likeable character instead of perhaps the wisest choice. McLaren never handled the rigours of the England job and it could be that Hodgson may struggle as well. Still, he has a baptism of fire this summer and to some extent the pressure is off the England team for once in a major tournament, something that may play into their hands. If Hodgson inspires the Three Lions to European glory for the first time then hats off to him, but this seems an unlikely scenario. It will be interesting to see whether the FA still think he’s the right man for the job come what July…