The general consensus following Roy Hodgson’s appointment as England manager is that he’s on a hiding to nothing.
All voices from within the game suggest the West Bromwich Albion boss is a smart choice for the Three Lions, but the paying public seems far less certain that he’s the man to take this national team forward.
Despite spells with Inter Milan (twice), FC Copenhagen, Finland and Switzerland to name just a few of his 18 managerial positions, Hodgson is better known on these shores for failing at Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool.
Stints with Fulham and West Bromwich Albion were much more positive, leading the Cottagers to a Europa League final and the Baggies to safety after replacing Roberto Di Matteo at the Hawthorns last February.
However, the stint at Anfield is proving particularly difficult for the 64-year-old to move away from. The shadow of Kenny Dalglish, coupled with suggestions that the job was beyond him, all proved to be too much during a 31-game stint on Merseyside.
And, whilst ‘King Kenny’ isn’t waiting to swoop at Wembley Stadium, the fear for many is that Hodgson doesn’t have the right credentials to be England boss. But what are these credentials, and does Harry Redknapp have them in his proverbial locker?
It’s an odd situation, given that the former Gravesend & Northfleet defender is the only candidate to have experience on the international stage thanks to his time with the Swiss, Fins and UAE. He is, in fact, the first manager to be appointed by the Football Association with prior experience at this level.
"I'm prepared. The fact is I took it (pressure and criticism) at Liverpool and I'll take it here," he told the media during his unveiling as England boss.
"But the Liverpool chapter is in the past and I'm concentrating on the future. There are lots of other chapters in my past I could concentrate on if I wanted to that would put a smile on my face.”
Redknapp, who was cleared of tax evasion on the same day Fabio Capello left his position with England, had appeared to be on a path that was leading towards the national team. A popular choice with the fans, ‘Arry’s free-flowing style of play and press conference quips are a winner with the majority.
However, he’s been diverted off the yellow brick road at some stage along the way, as the FA unanimously opted for Hodgson over the general public’s first choice.
It does leave the former West Ham United boss to fight for a Champions League place with Spurs, whose form dropped dramatically after speculation first started to link Redknapp with the position in February. Daniel Levy will be breathing a sigh of relief that the whole affair has now been put to bed, and that he hasn’t needed to negotiate a compensation package for his manager.
The Baggies had little room to maneuver with Hodgson, and whilst it’s unlikely that they would have stopped their man from taking charge of his country irrespective of his contract situation, he would have no longer been employed by the club come the summer.
David Bernstein denied that these simple mathematics – Hodgson for free or Redknapp for anywhere between £8 and £10 million depending on which newspaper you read – had any impact on the ultimate decision.
A cynic might suggest that, after spending big on Fabio Capello, it was obvious that the powers in charge of football in England would take the cheaper option.
If we do believe Bernstein though – and there is no reason to suggest we shouldn’t – then the four Club England members who made this big decision did so for footballing reasons.
Redknapp’s more personal touch with the players was not good enough to swing things his way, despite high-profile recommendations from the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney.
Perhaps that is why it was decided that Hodgson is the right man for the job. He’s all about respect, and certainly commands that from players who have worked under him during a long career that’s seen him rarely out of work. He’s never spent more than 12 months away from a club in the past two decades.
A student of the game, Hodgson has been a regular on UEFA technical coaching panels in the past, working alongside the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger at tournaments without stealing the headlines like his more illustrious counterparts.
This is a chance for Hodgson to steal the limelight in his own country, and for the fans to right him off before he’s even begun a four-year spell with the Three Lions would be grossly unfair on a man who has worked hard for his chance at the top.
True, working hard shouldn’t guarantee you a chance at the big time, but his past record suggests he’s up to the task on hand. Anything better than the quarter-finals at Euro 2012 would be a major success for Hodgson, but the biggest fear is that a group exit would lead to the axe.
No matter what happens in Poland & Ukraine, the FA must remain strong and stick with their choice of manager. Long term, he is as likely as anyone – including Redknapp – to bring this team forward.
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