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Third Time Lucky For Hodgson?
He’s not the ‘people’s choice’. Nor is he the flavour of the month. But his illustrious CV, ability to transform the fortunes of teams on a national and international level and rich knowledge of the global game elevates him to that of one of the most respected managers in World Football. What Roy Hodgson lacks in style, he more than makes up for in substance.
The basis of Hodgson’s strong credentials lies in his record at club level. Having managed 16 different clubs of varying sizes and statures across Europe, he holds far more experience in European football than any of the other candidates linked with the vacant managerial post. Whilst he turned Halmstads BK from relegation strugglers to two-time League Champions and won five successive Allsvekans with Malmö FF, during his first spell at Internazionale (1995-1997), he led the team to runners-up in the UEFA Cup. Having guided Fulham to their highest-ever placing of seventh in the 2008-2009 season the following season he led the Cottagers on a remarkable run to the UEFA Europa League Final, culminating in him receiving the LMA Manager of the Year award that year.
And whilst the black marks on his otherwise impressive career remain his spells in charge of Blackburn Rovers (1997-1998) and Liverpool (2010-2011), the latter, in particular, cannot be considered ‘disastrous’. Working under the Hicks-Gillett regime and with the Anfield faithful clamouring for Kop legend Kenny Dalglish to return to the dugout, Hodgson was always facing an uphill task. And yet his overall win percentage is not far off that of Dalglish’s – a noteworthy achievement given the polar-opposite financial and management contexts. Whilst many expected his star to fall, a month later he was appointed as Head Coach of West Bromwich Albion, whom he guided to a very credible 11th position last season. The 64-year-old’s success at club level has been mirrored on the international stage.
Just as Hodgson has gained notoriety for reviving the fortunes of dwindling clubs so he’s come to do the same for struggling international outfits. Accounting for his spells in charge of United Arab Emirates and Finland, his most notable success came in the form of the Swiss National Team. Under his guidance, Switzerland enjoyed a spectacular revival. Having lost just one match in qualifying, the Swiss eventually reached the Round of 16 at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, losing out to Spain. The team easily qualified for the UEFA European Football Championships in England in 1996, culminating in a meteoric rise to 3rd in the FIFA World Rankings in 1995. However much one gives to these achievements, he has become a highly respected figure both on and off the pitch.
With 41 years of managerial experience in his pocket, beginning at the age of 29 at Halmstads BK, no other candidate can boast a similar pedigree. Over the four decades Hodgson has consistently demonstrated his ability to adapt to, if not in some cases be ahead of, the times when it comes to his coaching methods and tactical nause. During his time in Sweden, he is credited with introducing zonal marking and he has appeared on several occasions as part of UEFA’s technical study group at the UEFA European Football Championships. And despite experiencing many highs and lows throughout his career he has always remained calm and dignified which would slot in with the FA’s desire for a statesman-like figure.
Even if FA Chairman David Bernstein is looking for a short-term fix, namely for the UEFA European Football Championships, to what is arguably a long-term problem, then Hodgson’s ability to instigate change in a short space of time would certainly fit the bill. He was, albeit with significant investment, instrumental in transforming Internazionale from mid-table mediocrity to leaving them in 3rd in Serie A whilst his experiences at Fulham and currently with West Bromwich Albion provide further evidence of this. And with Hodgson’s contract at the Hawthorns due to expire at the end of this season, a small compensation fee would certainly be appealing to the FA. England has little to lose so there’s no reason why the Croydon-born manager cannot repeat his previous successes.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Redknapp remains the favourite in what is a narrow field of candidates – a damning indictment of the shortage of English managers in the Barclays Premier League. But the FA should take note – being the ‘popular choice’ does not necessarily make Redknapp the right candidate for the job. There is an alterative and that alternative is Roy Hodgson.