The Football Association have approached West Bromwich Albion with a view to discussing the vacant England managerial vacancy with their manager, Roy Hodgson. While the announcement so far is only that contact has been made, the wording and the press reaction all points to an imminent appointment: Hodgson will be the new England manager.
The statement from the FA reads very much like a formality, with FA chairman David Bernstein thanking his Albion counterpart, Jeremy Peace, and stating that Hodgson is the only candidate the FA has approached about taking over from Fabio Capello on a permanent basis.
Hodgson’s likely appointment leaves me with mixed feelings. Its immediate benefit would be that Harry Redknapp will not manage England, meaning both that I won’t have to support a team in his charge, and that the FA haven’t made a catastrophic error of judgement. Hodgson may not be quite the improvement I’d like but he’s an improvement nonetheless, and in several significant ways. For the record, I’m not especially fond of Hodgson either – I suppose that’s inevitable when we currently exist on opposite sides of a local rivalry.
Regardless, rather Hodgson than Redknapp. He has good coaching and managerial pedigree despite a modest playing career. He has international football experience with Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates, jobs which hint at the fact that the West Brom boss is a well traveled and very well respected man in football. He thinks of football as a global game, and has both the will to embrace the sport beyond our shores and the intelligence to harness the knowledge (and, at club level, the players) that comes with that.
He’s also a manager who brilliantly organises his teams, as long as the players within those teams are willing to be organised. His methods are said to be unpopular with players who don’t like repetitive drills – hardly a small category – but he has got nothing to prove when it comes to succeeding with those methods when blessed with a squad that’s ready for them. For England, that might well be different and that is a worry.
For example, the job he did at Fulham was little short of miraculous. He joined the Cottagers in December 2007 with the club in dire form and seemingly heading for relegation, but by May 2010 was leading them out in Hamburg for the final of the UEFA Europa League – or the “finaaaal”, as he endearingly took to calling it at the time. It was a brilliant turnaround and has steadied Fulham’s Premier League presence, which hasn’t really been in doubt at any point since he left for Liverpool. Unsurprisingly, he’s worked wonders at West Bromwich Albion in similar circumstances.
But for all Hodgson’s sense of football adventure, he’s generally considered to rely far too much on the 4-4-2 formation. I’m not exactly Jonathan Wilson and I couldn’t care less about tactics (that’s for coaches, not me), but even I know that 4-4-2 is a formation better left to rot. Still, I’m not going to condemn a man without knowing how adaptable he might be, so let’s hope he continues his formidable football education and figures out how England need to play.
It would be negligent to ignore the fact that Hodgson has some significant Premier League failures on his CV. Long before his extremely disappointing and very brief spell at Anfield, he was sacked during Blackburn Rovers’ relegation season in 1998/99, a stain on his reputation from which he didn’t recover in many English eyes until turning around Fulham a decade later.
But if you look at his career as a whole, it’s impossible to argue that he isn’t qualified for the England job on the grounds of his achievements to date. He might not have the tactical nous, the vision or the superstar-management skills required, but he most certainly has the back catalogue.
The most important factor counting against Hodgson is not really down to Hodgson at all.
In my view, his appointment does not fully fit my beliefs about how the FA should be approaching the role of England manager at this time. And while that’s a personal preference – albeit one based on simple observations of the German and Spanish teams to whom we cannot hold a candle – the bottom line is that ultimately the identity of the next England manager is largely inconsequential without enormous structural change to back it up.
Still, I’m pleased that it looks like Redknapp is out of the picture. But it is perhaps a little surprising, because it has seemed for some time as if Redknapp’s appointment was a fait accompli. We’ll probably never quite know what happened there, but looking back the FA has played it cool on that front, keeping its cards close to its collective chest while Redknapp has overseen a collapse in Tottenham Hotspur’s Premier League form while talking himself into a frenzied knot.
It’s unlikely that Spurs’ slump has put paid to Redknapp’s chances with England. His club are presumably in a position to demand compensation, for one thing, and his suitability for the job on “other grounds” is questionable. Or is it possible that the FA has actually selected the better candidate (though possibly not the best candidate) despite enormous and entirely predictable pressure from a Redknapp-friendly media corps? Wonders never cease.
So, it seems like Hodgson is waiting for nothing more than the rubber stamp. What do you make of his appointment? Is he the right man for the job, the right man for the job right now, or not the right man at all?
(Photo credit: Beacon Radio via Flickr)