A Hodgson Affair

Written by David Martinez.

Hodgson will fail with England – History tells us it was ever thus.

‘Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it’ – George Santayana.

Roy Hodgson is a competent football manager who has found his level again at West Bromwich Albion over the past season and a half. He is not a manager capable of taking on the enormous pressures of a nation that is so starved of and desperate for success as England. He will fail as England manager and the treatment he will receive from the press and supporters will be cruel and excruciating to watch. How do I know this? Because I’ve already seen it happen. We all have.

Roy Hodgson unveiled as the new England boss

Imagine for a moment that you are an employer seeking a new employee to fill a vital role in your organisation. The first C.V. that you pick up contains a vast amount of experience in the field that you require. Assuming experience is almost a prerequisite for the post you are advertising, what would be the next things that you look for? Having never been in such a position myself you will have to indulge me while take a few guesses.

I would look for jobs that the applicant had done in the past that resembled as closely as possible the role that he or she would be taking on in my organisation. I would be looking into previous jobs that the applicant had listed that demanded similar levels of ability in a similar environment to the position I need to fill. I would look to see how the applicant dealt with circumstances likely to occur in the position that he or she would be taking on and crucially, whether he or she left such a post as a success or a failure.

Apparently I am wrong. The Football Association’s imminent selection of Roy Hodgson as the next England manager completely rejects my hypothetical method of selecting an employee. I know this, because on Roy Hodgson’s C.V. there is a huge, glaring warning sign that jumps off the page and shows with plenty of evidence why he should not, ever, be considered for such a demanding job as that of the England football team manager.

Upon the anticipated official announcement of Roy Hodgson to his role as the next manager of the national team, his apologists in the media will go into overdrive to tell you that Roy is the right man to take his country forward and will point to the relatively recent success he has enjoyed at West Brom and Fulham. Conversely, they will likely ignore or downplay the recent period of his career that is most significant and relevant to his new job. His time as manager of Liverpool Football Club will be brushed under the carpet and labelled as an aberration in his career.

To dismiss Hodgson’s stint at Liverpool or even ignore it is beyond stupidity. That the F.A have seemingly placed a negligible amount of importance on his run as manager of the most successful English football club in history, is amazing. His time as Liverpool manager should have been highlighted, examined and poured over long and hard. I can only assume based on the fact that Hodgson has been approached by the F.A. to take over as England manager that, staggeringly, it was not.

The period he spent on Merseyside remains the only job he has had in the past decade that is surrounded with the same expectations and pressures of the England post that he will soon inherit. It is the only job that he has taken on in recent times that carries with it the same intense media scrutiny that goes with being manager of this country. It is the only job that he has had since he left Inter Milan in 1999 where he had the opportunity to work with world class footballers. In short, it is obvious that the Liverpool job was the only one in the past ten years that is remotely comparable to the task that he is about to undertake. Most importantly, it is imperative to remember how that job panned out for him.

He failed. Miserably.

The revisionists among the press have recently peddled the idea that Roy was on a hiding to nothing when he walked in to Anfield, that it was an impossible job, that the fans didn’t want him and subsequently showed him no patience when things didn’t go well. All are fair points but only to a degree. Liverpool were a club crippled by its cowboy owners and the fans did want Kenny Dalglish in the hot seat rather than Roy. However, it is my recollection as a Liverpool fan myself that few supporters were particularly perturbed by Hodgson’s arrival. Most saw him as a steady, uninspiring, ‘know what you’re going to get’ kind of appointment and were willing to give him a chance. The problem was that no Liverpool supporter had anticipated what they were actually going to receive from Hodgson and how out of his depth he would be.

To have had a bad start at Liverpool results wise was understandable. They were not a great side despite some undoubted high quality players within their ranks and they had finished a lowly 7th in the previous Premier League season. Importantly though, it was not just the terrible results that sealed Roy’s fate (Liverpool were close to being sucked into a relegation battle at the time of his departure lest we forget). It was the breath-taking media quotes, the absurd ostracising and public criticising of key players, the inability to grasp what Liverpool Football Club meant and perhaps most significantly the outdated style of football that his team were made to practise.

Hodgson’s supporters point to the fact that his successor Kenny Dalglish, despite a poor 2011/2012 league season, has been afforded far more time and understanding than Hodgson ever got and this is true, but again there are significant mitigating circumstances. Under Hodgson, Liverpool routinely lost games where they were completely dominated by inferior sides while producing stale, dull football week in week out. There seemed little emphasis placed on any tactical flexibility or exciting, imaginative, attacking play. Even when they won games it was uninspiring fare that was served up to the Anfield masses. That is not something that Dalglish’s Liverpool side can be accused of. They have their faults (mainly profligacy) but they are rarely as poor as the Liverpool that belonged to Hodgson and they play with an attacking verve that is light years beyond anything produced by Hodgson’s team. They have also won one domestic cup competition, while reaching the final of another. Hodgson’s team were edging close to a relegation battle and were also disgracefully eliminated from the League Cup at home to a Northampton side described by Hodgson himself as ‘formidable opponents’.

That was just one jaw dropping quote among dozens that left Liverpool fans aghast as to who the man leading their famous club actually was. Here is a link to the excellent ‘Hodge Files’ for those who need a reminder of the garbage that was released from his mouth during his time on Merseyside. For those who don’t need to be reminded I suggest you revisit the quotes anyway because some are solid comedy gold.

It is frankly amazing to me that just 18 months after his horrific failure at Liverpool that the F.A. could appoint Roy Hodgson as the next England manager. Surely the selection committee assembled to appoint the man to take England into the Euros must have looked at what an unmitigated disaster his time at the biggest job in his career was? Surely they would have looked into how badly he reacted to criticism during his time at a huge club and how he crumbled under the pressure in the most spectacular way imaginable? Surely they could not afford to ignore the chronic lack of any proactive tactics and his failure to adequately manage and get the best out of the top class players at his disposal? If they required evidence to see whether a manager will sink or swim when the going gets tough in a highly pressurised job then Hodgson’s time at Liverpool was the perfect example they needed to decide that he is undoubtedly the wrong man for such a position as England manager.

Instead, the F.A have seemingly decided to completely ignore Hodgson’s time at Liverpool and have again demonstrated their lack of foresight and displayed their inability to competently run English football. They have replaced one of the most successful managers of any generation in Fabio Capello with a man whose career highlights are so insignificant in comparison that they aren’t even worth listing here.

I will watch Hodgson’s time as England manager with the morbid fascination of passing by a car wreckage. As soon as things start to go wrong and results head south I anticipate that the pressure will become so great on Hodgson that his press conferences and interviews will descend into farce and become excruciatingly painful to behold. He will be made fun of by the tabloids for his quirky physical reactions on the touchline when things go against his side (previous classics such as head banging and face rubbing will undoubtedly be surpassed if England fall at the first hurdle in Poland/Ukraine this summer.) He will cut a lonely isolated figure, evoking memories of the numerous occasions where he sat in the Anfield dugout like a rabbit in the headlights. He is so obviously the wrong man for the England job that the mere suggestion of him being the it when he left Liverpool 18 months ago would bring roaring laughter from all and sundry. Now, astonishingly, that situation is about to become reality.

If you are one of the millions who will be watching Roy Hodgson lead England into Euro 2012 on your television then I suggest you do it from a position behind your couch because it is not going to be pleasant viewing. Like the F.A, you have been warned.


One Comment on “A Hodgson Affair”

  1. […] of the speculation and pre-tournament interest has been centred on Roy Hodgson as he was named England boss in wake of Capello’s resignation. His squad selection is also […]

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