Minggu, 29 April 2012

Hodgson in the frame for England

Roy Hodgson is poised to become England manager and pip the people's choice Harry Redknapp.

The Football Association has broken its silence almost three months after clumsily parting ways with Fabio Capello, who left England with a win rate of 66.7% - the best in its history. But their choice for the 'impossible job' comes as a surprise after weeks of Tottenham's boss being touted as the next in line.

"Roy is the only manager we have approached and we remain on course to make an appointment within the timescale we set out soon after Fabio Capello's departure,'' FA chairman David Bernstein said today. "Further conversations will now take place with Roy and my Club England colleagues before any further announcements can be made.''

Shock, horror - Redknapp is out in the cold. Three wins in eleven games since Capello quit and now no England job after all.


Despite an immediate avalanche of support for the Tottenham boss from the media and public at large, the lack of any announcement meant Hodgson's credentials have begun to be talked up more in recent weeks. The expectation was that the F.A. would announce Redknapp's appointment at the end of the season once compensation had been agreed with his club.

Redknapp's cavalier attacking style has been a joy to watch, particularly when Spurs dismantled both Milan teams in last year's Champions League. Yet such an open approach could soon be found out and counteracted at international level.

Capello's tactics against Spain at Wembley in his penultimate match were rather the way forward: Safety first, frustrate your superior opponents, hit them on the break or from a set piece and resort to mass defence and denial of space. That does not sound like Redknapp.

Choosing between Hodgson and Redknapp was ultimately a choice between the head and the heart and the F.A. have courageously not bowed to public opinion, which when it comes to football can often be wrong.

Hodgson has the international experience, the flexibility to oversee the huge St George's Park project and base himself in Staffordshire, and the lack of a contract to unravel after this summer. He speaks many languages, has coached in Serie A amongst eight countries in all, reached a European club final and managed three national teams, including one at the World Cup Finals. So why was not he the automatic first choice for England?

The answer is he is too continental for England's liking. Anglo-Saxon culture is suspicious of Europe and of intellectualism. Rather a Redknapp who wrote a column for the soft-porn Daily Sport, than a Hodgson who discussed John Updike and Saul Bellow in the literary pages of The Observer. While Hodgson is a polyglot, Redknapp only speaks cockney.

In England, football is a game of passion instead of science and while both main candidates hailed from humble London backgrounds, Harry the son of a docker simply ticked more boxes in the tabloid mentality which dominates the national soccer discourse. He is an old-fashioned motivator in the Brian Clough mold rather than a modern coach Pep Guardiola-style, the last hurrah of England's footballing roots before European culture swamps it for good.

But Hodgson it is. And the additional responsibilities of overseeing the grand projet that is the new national training centre in Burton-on-Trent for England's various teams surely suit him better than they would Redknapp. The Spurs boss might well have been unwilling to swap his Poole mansion for the Midlands and may have got bored by the lack of matches in the international calendar.

For Hodgson, the press will probably be hostile from the off, having beaten their favourite to the job. He shows his insecurities in his face and voice which does not help, and memorably cried once on the touchline at Inter. The Fleet Street knives will be out in force, and the West Brom boss is unlikely to relish a possible repeat of his Liverpool experience when he never won over the supporters.

Euro 2012 will be a baptism of fire, especially as the players had looked forward to Harry revving up in the dressing room. There will be little time to get to know them beforehand and only Steven Gerrard and Scott Carson will be familiar faces.

That said, Hodgson's experience is there for all to see, and even those who would have preferred Redknapp have respect for his abilities.

As with any man in the hot-seat, the results will do the talking.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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