By Sachin Nakrani
It is always heartening to see a drowning man raise his head above water, but 16 months on from his sacking as the Liverpool manager, few could have predicted Roy Hodgson would have clambered onto shore in such spectacular style.
He was sunk at Anfield, a man ruined and humiliated, and yet here he now is, picking England’s squad for Euro2012. It is jaw-dropping, eye-rubbing stuff. Not for everyone, of course.
Ask Fulham and West Bromwich Albion supporters and they will tell you that the 64-year-old fully deserves a chance to lead the nation of birth into a major tournament.
Others, too, would argue Hodgson’s case, most notably supporters of the Swedish clubs Halmstad and Malmo, who won multiple titles under the Englishman’s charge, as well as those of the Swiss national team, who reached the 1994 World Cup as well as third place in the Fifa world rankings while managed by the same man.
Overall, Hodgson’s managerial career spans 36 years and takes in 18 different sides in eight different nations.
Hodgson is, then, a well-travelled and reasonably successful coach, but sure to forever hover over his achievements, and in particular as he prepares to manage England, is his time at Liverpool.
It was as brief as it was brutal.
We all know the mitigating circumstances; chaos in the boardroom, a demoralised squad in need of major improvement that was unlikely to receive reinforcements because of, well, the chaos in the boardroom, but, nonetheless, it is no exaggeration to say that presented with a chance to make his name at one of England’s powerhouse clubs, Hodgson messed up badly. It probably couldn’t have gone any worse.
Along with the terrible form – Liverpool won just seven out of 20 Premier League games under Hodgson’s charge as well as exiting the Carling Cup to Northampton Town on a sodden and sorry night at Anfield – there was also an insipid, almost primeval style of play, best encapsulated by the story of how Hodgson reacted one afternoon upon seeing Daniel Agger trying to play his way out of defence.
“Just fucking launch it!” came his order to the Danish centre-back.
Most alarming of all, however, was Hodgson’s demeanor during his six-month stay on Merseyside. When he arrived on a sweltering day in July, I for one thought Liverpool had appointed a man who would bring calm to a club in crisis, but he more than anyone got caught up in the maelstrom, increasingly coming across as a desperate and overwhelmed figure with the nadir perhaps reached during Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat away to Newcastle on the 11th of December 2010 when Hodgson could be seen rubbing his face so hard that one could only presume he had become possessed.
The lowering of expectations was what possibly upset Liverpool fans the most and, ultimately, it came as no surprise when they turned on Hodgson. I was there for the miserable defeat to Wolves at Anfield on the 29th of December 2010 and while I did not participate in the chants of “Hodgson for England”, neither did I shake my head in disgust.
His time was up, we knew it and he probably did, too. But who could have imagined then that “Hodgson for England” would
become less a taunt and more a prediction of events to come. The bulk of Liverpool supporters probably couldn’t give a toss given their generally apathy to all matters concerning the national team.I am part of that collective but, equally, I do feel some concern for a man who by all accounts is decent and upstanding and, let us not forget, did arrive at Liverpool with the intention of doing well by the club.
Because if Hodgson found life at Liverpool tough-going than he is surely about to receive one heck of a bolt to the system. The scrutiny
that comes with being the England manager is 10-fold, as has already been seen by the cruel front-page put out by a certain newspaper to mark his appointment to the job, and by Hodgson’s own admission he is not a man who takes criticism well.
Then there is the team itself; one that is strikingly similar to that which Hodgson found upon replacing Rafa Benitez at Anfield in that it is lacking in balance and a sizeable number of top-quality players but, nevertheless, is under demand to win regularly and to do so
playing reasonably eye-catching football.
All England fans can hope is that he gets it right this time.
But what exactly is “right”? Hodgson has already said that England will travel to Euro2012 with the intention of winning the tournament but only a tub-thumping fool would think that is even a remote possibility. As said, the squad is hardly crammed with high-calibre talents with perhaps only Joe Hart, Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney its genuine world-class players and, don’t forget, the later is suspended for the opening two games of the tournament.
In a group that contains the hosts Ukraine, the consistently-capable Sweden and the much-improved France, England would do well to make the knockout stages. From there anything is a bonus, and should England make the semi-finals then all involved, Hodgson in particular, should be lauded to the heavens.
The fundamental thing holding progress back is a lack of preparation.
Hodgson will have named his squad for the tournament having not even met the majority of the players and will have less than a month to scout England’s group opponents, an absurdly short space of time that has come about due to the FA’s desire to drag their feet over appointing Fabio Capello’s successor. Their intentions were noble but the eventual outcome is quite frankly bonkers.
The flip-side, of course, is that England will travel to Ukraine and Poland with little or no expectations of making an impact, a welcome departure from the usual hyperbole and tabloid-led bullshit that follows the team onto foreign shores. That is sure to suit Hodgson who despite his new-found bravado, still comes across as a man who finds ambition and swagger unsettling; the bank manager to Harry Redknapp’s casino owner.
But I for one wish him well. He failed spectacularly at Liverpool but never meant us any harm and has now at least shown the bravery to take on a job that turned the majority of his predecessors into joke-figures and vegetables.
The country wanted Redknapp, they have ended up with Hodgson. Yes, it still seems a little startling but there are those in Sweden,
Switzerland, London, the Black Country and even Milan that will assure you he is a more than capable coach. All the nation can hope for ahead of Euro2012 is that the ghost of Anfield past does not continue to haunt him.
Sachin is a sports journalist for The Guardian and you can follow him on Twitter here
And there was me thinking our Captain was world class…
That was a terrible lapse in judgement
love stevie as much as the next Red but not sure he counts as “world class” on current form or on recent displays for england.
happy for him that he’s been made captain by roy. fully deserves it
You also lost me at “…the squad is hardly crammed with high-calibre talents with perhaps only Joe Hart, Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney its genuine world-class players…” We all realize Gerrard has been injured much of this season, but come on.
You write this piece on a Liverpool centered site about a man most Liverpool fans can’t stand, one of many reasons being his thinly veiled disgust at players that can actually play football, and then don’t mention Steven Gerrard in a sentence about England’s genuine world-class talents? Bizarre.
Otherwise, I think it’s kind of you to say these things, but I still don’t see any evidence in this piece to support your claim that “he is a more than capable coach.” And please don’t simply site that he’s managed in loads of different countries and for loads of different teams, ergo, he is a a brilliant yet underrated manager. To me his record sounds more like he wasn’t good enough to stay at any of these clubs and build a legacy or truly climb up the football ladder because of his limited tactics and style of play. He’s also won nought outside of Scandinavia. That kind of says it all to me.
I also heard he reads books and speaks different languages. Yeah.
I hate Hodgson and don’t think he’s the Mr. Nice Guy that the media paints him to be, but I also wish him no harm. He tends to bring harm to himself so me wishing it is really just redundant.
Gerrard, world class. Now that’s bizzare. Maybe 3 or 4 years ago!
He failed at Anfield, he failed at Blackburn and he failed at Milan. He’ll fail with England, though so would anybody.
His England will be organised, rigid, dull and lifeless but hard to beat.
And where has he ‘succeeded’? Fulham, WBA, Switzerland and Scandinavia. Places where fans are gratfeul for the smallest things and expectations are low.
Maybe that’s his true level?
Expectations are, and rightfully should be, low for England too. The national team lacks talent but attracts negative headlines in an abundance … Shame it’s not the reverse.
Hodgson has been played a real hospital pass by the FA by being given 6 weeks to prepare for a major tournament. Let’s be realistic about what can be achieved in such a limited amount of time. He didn’t have to take the job, some might say – but why shouldn’t he, its the pinnacle of a manager’s career and his employers consider him capable of the task at hand.
But, he was grateful of the opportunity to manage the national team, and as supporters we should be grateful he took it on. The other viable alternative was Harry Redknapp, arguably a ‘better’ coach, but one who spends for too much time in court … But that’s ok isn’t it because he is the darling of the London tabloids with his baseless sound bites for the headline writers.
He’ll never win over the Liverpool fans, but that doesn’t matter. The impression I get is that he has more supporters than not…especially from within the game where he is respected by players and his peers. Some poster replied, rather pathetically, that they “hate” Hodgson, comments based on his spell at Liverpool I assume – do they also “hate” kenny dalglish, who won the same amount of league games at Anfield as Hodgson in 2012???
He won’t win the Euros, but give the guy a chance. Good luck Roy.
Agree with Danielle, why does he have this ‘nice guy’ reputation? At Liverpool he was found to be a responsibility-dodging, back-stabing (of players, eg Johnson), scapegoat-seeking, duplicious prick. He blamed anyone and everyone for his failings and then made up complete and utter lies about Rafa banning Kenny from the training ground. And if all that wasn’t bad enough he then hangs around like a bad fart so he can pocket £8 million quid for his ‘services’ to the club?!! And his mates in the media blame Liverpool fans for not appreciating him?! Tell you what, we’ll change our opinion of him if he gives the £8 million back….
If this is your idea of a ‘nice man’, I’d hate to meet someone you deem to be a complete and utter c*nt!!
Personally I can’t wait for the Scum to make a garden alotment out of DoF’s head! It’s about the only enjoyment I take from International football
Christ, people still think Il Capitano is world class? He hasn’t been for a long time.
Agree with all points Danielle made. So…
What exactly is the point of this piece, Sachin? Is it intended as a veiled message of support to Hodgson?
You make the point, correctly, that “The bulk of Liverpool supporters probably couldn’t give a toss given their generally [sic] apathy to all matters concerning the national team.”
But then conclude with “All the nation can hope for ahead of Euro2012 is that the ghost of Anfield past does not continue to haunt him.” Well you’ve already established that WE don’t give a toss so I can’t see what you’re trying to get across on an LFC website.
By the way, loved this: “…should England make the semi-finals then all involved, Hodgson in particular, should be lauded to the heavens.”
Absolute bollocks and true Reds would never laud Woy anywhere.
What’s next: Daniel Taylor’s ode to whisky nose?
Two words can best sume up Hodgson’s time at Liverpool: Joe Cole
Why did not the English FA give the once over on Brendan Rogers, Paul Lambert, Roberto Martinez or, even, Gary Neville? The English FA’s myopia is mind-boggling. For a while in the early 2000s, the Germans were similarly blinded by myopia, but see how far they have come!
Two more words: Christian Poulsen
I agree with Sachin: I’ve always thought Roy Hodgson was a decent, dignified man from his time at Fulham, and I was cautiously optimistic when he became our manager. Of course it turned out disastrously; but that doesn’t invalidate his achievements before (and I include being decent and dignified as an achievement in today’s game — when pressed by an MotD reporter after a game where Fulham conceded two highly dubious penalties, one completely wrong, he steadfastly refused to criticise the referee). Good luck to him; I was really pleased to see him do well at West Brom, and noticed how well the Anfield faithful received him when they came to Anfield this year (although this was before they beat us!).
Lol, some fans are so deluded.
Gerrard hasn’t been world class for years.
If Liverpool wan’t to know why a succession of middling managers don’t even want to consider taking over as manager look no further than the way you treated Hodgson.
‘He’s not a Liverpool player/manager’ repeat Ad Infinitum
He rubbed his face at the sports direct arena, God knows what he’ll be rubbing when England play France next month. Either way get your camera’s at the ready.
Three more words: better than Messi
‘Hodgson messed up badly. It probably couldn’t have gone any worse.’
Yes it could have, he could have spent over £100 million on below average players and presided over the worst Premier League season in Liverpool’s history like Kenny did. Roy had very little money to spend but was still expected to meet the high expectations of one of the biggest clubs in England. He never stood a chance.
He bought Konchesky and Poulssen and paid them champions league wages! The only expectation was that he improved on the previous year which he failed miserably at. His only hinderence was the clowns who owned the club at the time. Only after increasingly erratic and desperate press meets did he lose the fans. “lucky not to lose 6-0 to city”, “momentous victory at Bolton” and various others.
Notice you only mention the total outgoings in Kenny’s time in charge and no mention of massively reduced wages on incoming players.
Wrong on so many levels it hardly deserves the reply time.