AN underwhelming 1-0 win over Norway was greeted by just 40,000 at Wembley tonight. Maybe England fans are finally realising what Liverpool supporters already know. But why does Roy Hodgson still have so many supporters in the media, writes PAUL CANTWELL.
Way back when The Simpsons was still funny there was one of those typically acerbic, tongue-in-cheek lines that at the time had become the show’s signature. When facing imminent death Homer is told by town physician, Dr. Julius Hibbert: “Well, we can’t cure you but we can tell you exactly why you’re dying.” To which the Simpson’s paterfamilias replies with faux amazement: “Wow, what an age we live in!”
It was a line that sprang to mind during Roy Hodgson’s final (and inevitably premature) World Cup press conference in Brazil when the England boss held forth to theorise as to why his England side had just stank out the greatest World Cup in a generation. All manner of areas were covered in Hodgson’s address, from the absence of a mid-winter break in the domestic season, to a perceived lack of opportunities for young English talent in the Premier League. Using a mix of analogies, metaphors and proverbs that no doubt dazzled the many present, Hodgson spoke the sort of great game that makes him so highly respected by the English press pack and at those all-important coaching seminars. Like Dr. Hibbert, Hodgson was able to diagnose at length but not a remedy was proffered.
It is tempting to forensically dissect each of Hodgson’s pitiful reasons for his latest failure, but the performances and results of almost every other nation in Brazil has removed all need to do so. Countries such as Algeria, Costa Rica, USA and Chile – all of whom must cast the most envious of glances at England’s resources – exposed the poverty of Hodgson’s excuses.
Hodgson has portrayed England’s problems as being of an entirely macro kind and beyond his control, casting himself as the little boy with his finger in the dyke (not Greg, the one from the fable.) Whilst some of these macro factors – lack of a mid-winter break, for example– hold some weight, in truth they are more irksome than debilitating with the real reasons behind England’s shambolic performance in Brazil very much of the micro kind, such as playing a 34 year old in a two-man central midfield in the heat and humidity of Brazil; having seven months to prepare for the obvious danger men of Italy (Andrea Pirlo) and Uruguay (Luis Suarez) but still giving both the freedom of the pitch; and generally deploying tactics with all the flexible properties of an erect penis in the advanced stages of riga mortis.
Whilst the spectre of a football manager trying to shift blame and save his own skin is hardly new, what is remarkable about Hodgson is that the media, in the main, allow him to get away with it. Where previous incumbents such as Fabio Capello and Sven Goran Erikson were chased out of the job for decidedly better results, Hodgson has continued to enjoy the broad support of the press, with only a silent minority calling for his removal.
So how is it that the man who has overseen England’s worst ever performance at a World Cup finals can remain so resolutely bullet-proof? The answer would appear to lie in the fact that so many members of the press have spent so long building Hodgson up into something he’s quite clearly not – a great manager deserving of the best jobs in the game – that to now criticise him would be to call their own judgement into question.
Clearly suffering delusions of grandeur, Hodgson, himself, has never been shy about applying for some of the most difficult jobs in the game, believing himself the equal to any challenge. But whereas the usual course of action with delusional sorts is to gently guide them back into the realm of reality, with Hodgson the media have done the opposite – fuelling an unwarranted and artificially high opinion of his own abilities by writing opinion piece after opinion piece, hailing phantom qualities seen by nobody but themselves. The press, in effect, have become Hodgson’s enabler, allowing him to reside in a fantasy world where his meagre talents are sufficient to return the glory days to the likes of Liverpool and England.
Where a solitary impressive season at Fulham should have been acknowledged as such, it was instead used as a launching pad for his career to go into orbit. Suddenly Hodgson ‘deserved’ the Liverpool job and would ‘clearly be an improvement’ on Champions League winner Rafael Benitez, with the number of English journalists not petitioning for Hodgson to replace Benitez roughly matching Merseyside’s transsexual albino dwarf population. Never mind that Hodgson had failed badly at his only previous jobs of comparable difficulty, Internationale and the then champions Blackburn Rovers, Fleet Street’s most influential voices were united in their belief that double La Liga winner Benitez could be upgraded by a manager whose only titles had arrived at the likes of Halmstads BK, Neuchâtel Xamax and Malmö FF.
When the inevitable car crash occurred, though, Hodsgon walked away almost completely unscathed thanks to the rescue work of his enablers in the press who preferred instead to focus the blame on the Anfield fans for the club’s worst run of results since the 1950s.
After a modest rehabilitation at West Bromwich Albion, Hodgson’s cheerleaders were at it again, this time clamouring for their hero to get the England job. A dire (and in hindsight, portentous) Euro 2012 was excused on the grounds that Hodgson needed more time in the job. And when he managed to secure World Cup qualification from a desperately poor group by the skin of his teeth, all thoughts of objective appraisal went out the window as Hodgson was lauded from pillar to post by his fan club of scribes, with Paddy Barclay even going so far as to pen an open letter to his ‘great friend’, in which he boasted of his own role in securing Hodgson the job of national team coach.
And therein lies the rub. With too many journalists having allowed the line between personal affection and professional respect to become not so much blurred as obliterated, they have confused personal charm for managerial ability and now find themselves both unable and unwilling to do a U-turn and criticise their ‘great friend’. How, for example, could Barclay now write anything even approaching an accurate critique of Hodgson’s performance in Brazil’? For Barclay read dozens more journalists and general media figures who now find themselves hostage to their own previous, absurdly generous assessments of the England manager’s merits.
The truth is the media would now make themselves look completely ridiculous were they to admit they have been backing a donkey all along. Paid to be weathervanes for the prevailing football winds, insiders to whom the public go in search of information and knowledge, for the same journalists to now admit they got it so totally and utterly wrong about Hodgson would be to admit they can no better assess the football climate than Michael Fish can the actual one. For while erstwhile BBC weatherman Fish famously failed to spot the most destructive storm to hit Britain in decades, the failure of so-called football experts to spot the many glaring shortcomings of a manager with nearly 40 years of experience and yet not a single medal of note to his name, was no less a spectacular failure and downright dereliction of duty.
Of course there are some notable exceptions to the Hodgson media love-in but when so many senior football writers across every major national paper have nailed their colours to the mast aboard the leaking dinghy that is the dud ship Hodgson, the prevailing sound emanating from the fourth estate over the coming Euro 2016 campaign will be one of silence. Because Hodgson is the same manager now as he was when the press petitioned for him to get the Liverpool and England jobs in the first place – that is to say a tactical fossil whose relevance to the game was left behind in the backwaters of 1970s Scandanavian football, the mediocre environment in which he found his true level.
With ticket sales for tonight’s Norway game selling about as well as Jimmy Savile memorabilia, a fog of apathy has descended over the national team with the media parroting Hodgson’s line that English football’s problems are of a holistic nature and beyond the control of the man in the dug-out. Such wrongheaded exoneration will ensure Hodgson will remain in situ as England labour through a qualifying group in which it would be more difficult to fail than succeed before no doubt overseeing yet another hapless capitulation at the feet of the first half decent opponent they meet in France in the summer of 2016.
Of equal certainty, of course, is that Hodgson will once again walk away unscathed and for that he can be grateful to his ever-loyal army of enablers in the press.
Pics: David Rawcliffe
Excellent piece that Dave, really enjoyed it.
I had half an eye on Ingurland tonight, mainly hoping that our players wouldn’t get injured. The standard of play against a mediocre team was appalling. Liverpool players were by far the best but still way below their club level. The after match ‘analysis’ made no mention of Woy’s pitiful preformance, it’s as though he has absolutely no responsibility for the team’s shortcomings. Personally I couldn’t care less about Ingurland, but the negative influence of Woy on our players is worrying. Woy is a member of the football old boys’ network and will walk away after a Euros disaster with no culpability whatsoever.
Excellently article. Paddy is a dick isn’t he.
Wow! At last!
I was ridiculed and lambasted for seeing right through Hodgson the day he waltzed into the Liverpool job.I wasn’t’ alone but then I was outnumbered by the masses who form their opinions from the daily papers.They were shoulder to shoulder in support of him.
It’ a pity that this piece is confined to these pages.It’s a brilliant assessment of where we are as a football nation.
A man with no credentials whatsoever is fast-tracked into the Liverpool job and is then lauded as the Saviour of English football!
You just couldn’t make this up.
But in the cosy world of journalism nobody sticks their head above the parapet.
Till now! At long last! You Sir,are an absolute credit to your profession!
A perfect assessment of England and The Hodge, a great article, only missing a paragraph or two denigrating the loser that deemed him worthy of our fine club, the pond life that goes by the name Pistian Curslow. (Can’t even bring myself to write the name) They were dark dark days with easily the worst football seen in my lifetime.
Step forward to now…a young manager, along with a young team playing bright, attractive attacking football. We can thank our lucky stars and who gives a toss what the southern press write, they can have the shat that they deserve.
At this point I don’t what it will take for the media to stop kissing Roy’s back-side. However since Gerrard’s retirement I feel they deserve each other. For some reason I want all the Liverpool players to retire from England duty. Watching them play for England after playing for Liverpool is like watching your children throw away all the food on the table to eat mud.
Absolutely spot on Paul.
Up there with Goebbels & Comical Ali when it comes to propaganda though !
The Hodge is like an 1970s edition of professionals, in your mind its great, then you watch an episode and realise it was really crap, then you realise why you thought it was great, it’s because there was only 3 Chanels and compared to Terry and June and Ask the family, it fucking rocked.
The English media want an English manager, but the choice is Harry, Big Sam or Alan Pardew. In this context Roy fucking rocks (as far as the chattering classes are concerned) and thats whom Barclay, Haywood, Winter et al write for.
Since the gentrification of football in the premier league era it’s the middle classes that look to the likes of Winter ( old Wet you know, has a brother that’s a don at Christchurch [the Oxbridge college not the city] same year as Nick Clegg but we’ll forgive him those sins . Ha ha ha ) to form their opinions.
Off the field Roy fits their bill and also the FA’s in every possible way ( give or take the odd slagging off of some bygone colony, that most FA suits don’t understand anyway).
On the pitch his tactics are like an opera by Wagner, unfortunately even Costa Rica and the USA have discovered the Beatles and the Stones while the Germans are well past Kraftwork and looking good.
In the end who gives it fuck, this isn’t my England or your England it’s their England and their Hodge, as long as he doesn’t fill our tricky reds with too much garbage and they can revert back to Brendon mode the moment they turn onto the M62 I don’t really care.
In many ways its quite funny watching them all trying to pretend that the emperor really has got cloths, its just that we’re not educated enough to realise.
Et tu Berwutus (As Woy would say)
That’s a great piece, really enjoyed it. Hodgson, as a middle class middle aged white guy who never made it as a footballer so did the second best thing and became a manager appeals to other middle class middle aged white guys who never made it as footballers so did the third best thing and write about it. He travelled! He reads Philip Roth!! He is just like us!!!
Yes, but what about the actual match?
Oh. Carry on, then.
Seriously, Barclay being his usual imbecilic self does not equal a press pack love-in for dear old Roy. If the media have not yet turned their guns on him, it’s because of a) the paucity of alternatives and b) the litmus test of the qualifiers has not yet begun and we’ve yet to see how England will perform in a chain of competitive fixtures.
It’s a testament to the fans that 40,000 did turn up at Wembley last night. The low turnout is still down to it being a weekday friendly against Norway and the idiocy of the FA having every match there to cover the bloated cost of the damn thing. I am though irked by Roy’s increasingly dampening down of expectations, even though essentially he’s saying what many are thinking. Suddenly it seems we don’t want pragmatists in charge of the national team now.
England DID play better in Brazil than they had done in South Africa or indeed for most of the time in Germany. The problem Hodgson created for himself was the appointment of Rooney to the captaincy, thereby making him an automatic starter. While there were n’t any real alternatives for the role, he is increasingly looking out of place. Since Sturridge is the first choice striker, Rooney should play as an impact player coming off the bench.
The mood will certainly turn decisively against Hodgson if he starts to make a mess of what should be a straightforward qualifying campaign.
Sir… if you think England played better in Brazil (1 point form 3 games) compared to South Africa (qualified from group and a disallowed Lampard goal from a competitive scoreline v Germany), then I’m afraid you must stand up and say “I’ve been Hodged”
I can see that game catching on in the stands at Wembley…
I think we did play better in Brazil, although admittedly it looks strange on paper. England may have qualified from the group stage in SA, but we were simply wretched in all four matches. There was n’t a single decent passage of play where we did anything meaningful with the ball, even in a relatively easy group. Being dumped out by Germany was merciful, goal or no goal.
England played well against Italy, or at least until 70 minutes when both sides appeared too knackered to do anything else. Played less well against Uruguay, but still created chances and maybe with fewer individual mistakes the match against Costa Rica would n’t have been a dead rubber.
Hodgson should be judged on the qualifying campaign and if he’s able to blend new and established players together into an effective system. Nothing else.
Italy hadn’t won in 8 games before playing England and were on the verge of crisis nationally. We made them look like a decent cohesive unit. (btw, the press in Italy blamed Balotelli for their exit because the mgr blamed the young players for their woes and they used this to hang Balo).
HOdge said Costa Rica were the whipping boys of the group. They kept 5 clean sheets in the qualies. That doesn’t sound like whipping boys to me. He’s an idiot, plain and simple.
Henry Winter, yuk. wretch.
A lot of those fans were Club England fans so they don’t buy indiv. tickets but pay a lump sum some time back. OTherwise the attendance would be even less.
It’s going to be a very dull qualifying 2 years looking at the group and we’ll be sure to play down to the level of opposition.
Nice to see the media finally getting on Woy’s back though. 1 pt in the group stages and you keep your job? as the 2nd highest paid manager in the WC? It’s a joke.
Unfortunatley due to the media love in England fans cannot really see that they have been ‘Hodged’ as we LFC fans were. During the world cup my pals thought the blame was squarely with the players and not Hodge, but they werent Liverpool fans, they had not been burnt, they had not been HODGED – Inter Milan & Blackburn fans have also been.
Looking at yesterdays dour game against an at best ordinarly Norway team (did anyone know any of the players?) Hodge started with – Hart, Stones, Baines, Cahill, Jones, Hendo, Wilshire, Rooney, Ox, Sterling & Studge – thats a pretty good selection of players – add in Barkley, Walcott, Welbeck, Gibbs etc. Thats a team/squad that should in theory get top 4/5 in the EPL – and by no scientific method at all i suggest should be good enough for top 10 in the world. But you cannot discount the HODGE factor.
Yesterday England lined up 442 – you could clearly see at times what appeared to be a pole running through the players to keep them in line. I appreciate that perhaps too much is made of formations etc, but when was the last time any team in the world acheived something significant playing a rigid 442 – Oh yeah – it was Mike Bassett!! Four – Four – F*ucking TWO!!
England fans – You have been HODGED – you just dont know it yet!
Surely, it is only a matter of time that an extremely talented young player gets his first England call up and just politely turns international football down, for England or any other country.
Whoever is first to do it, that’s my new hero – regardless of what club he plays for.
That player should be knighted on the spot for services to football
His days are numbered….a replacement is probably now being privately considered in the upper echelons of the F.A
I’ll give him a year at the most.
well, it was a rubbish game against Norway. It was a rubbish WC. Hodge was the 2nd highest paid mgr at the WC. Seriously. England can just fuck off in every way.
Thing is, we spend our time playing weak sides like Norway who park the bus and then struggle to break them down while camped on the edge of their box – not surprisingly.
Then we play good sides, or sides with pedigree, like Chile or Italy and we always lose, cos we’re not good enough. Tough but not great sides like Ukraine leave Hodge celebrating draws as he plays the percentages.
And those useless games against the likes of Norway just don’t do us any favours in preparing for those harder games – evidently.
The point is, we’re now cornered into having an English manager by a stupid FA. So it’ll be Gareth Southgate, Gary Neville, Steve Bruce. That’s the selection pool for 2 years time you can bank on it.
The real problem is Hodgson, the 13 or 14 wins a season man. C+ as you put it before Neil. That’s his constant.
Look at Costa Rica and my fave team of the WC, Algeria. Great play, over achieved and Algeria came so close to knocking Germany out of the WC with adventurous hard working play. Amazing stuff. Inspiring. Clearly a coach that knew how to get the most out of a team limited only by talent but never by attitude.
I would take one of those managers – probably the Algerian manager for the attacking play – and ask him to imbed that playing philosophy and team ethos into England. In 2 years we’ll be transformed.
Surely that makes all sorts of sense. Look at BR and FSG. It’s a philosophy that everyone’s bought into and some very highly rated youngsters have seen and come for.
Look at Chelsea, Mourhinho says don’t concede and buy a lot of talent up front – it’s a philosophy and he gets it working incredibly well. Arsenal, buy ALL the midfielders, it’s a philosophy and it creates a real flat track bully.
Utd are going galactico, surely there’s a critical mass where they’ll buy enough talent that it may well work. It’s a philosophy, however laughable.
Spurs – no philosophy except maximise player deals – and there’s failure for you.
It’s about instilling a vision / philosophy and making that work. Hodgson is a failure on this count at the high levels. Mid table garbage, fine. High levels?
His liverpool squad sent more players to the WC than any other club on the planet. 12th place after 20 games having spent £20m and got 6 players in. 7 wins. That’s his level.
Dalglish – remaining 18 games? 3rd place in the form table.
Bring in the Algerian national coach. Watch us create a team identity.
Who gives a fuck?
Still cannot believe he was the manager at Liverpool. Even less fathomable that he replaced the sacked Rafa. Still, looking back in time can be hazardous to health.
The witch hunt continues. I think it shows a lack of class to STILL be bringing up Hodgson’s failure as a Liverpool manager, and using it ONCE AGAIN as a stick to beat him with. There’s a distinct common bleat surrounding the Anfield Wrap when it comes to Hodgson, and almost comes across as a shared opinion which gets you in the ‘club’ if you bother to print it.
From a writing perspective I thought this piece was highly petulant. Lambasting the current England manager because its fashionable to do so (at leasg on here it is). You even comment on how the media have influenced previous managers departures, and almost sound annoyed that it isn’t happening here!!!
You are a typical lazy journo, taking to the laptop to churn out the common opinion of the week, when it would be much harder work to actually write about something fresh and original, wouldn’t it?
Hodgson’s failure as lfc manager is absolutely relevant to his current position and his lack of suitability thereof.
Seems you really didn’t get the whole article.
Is that you woy.
Have you not watched the England games under Hodgson’s tutelage?
Your comment is very odd. You attack the writer for “jumping on a bandwagon” which – as the article clearly explains – does not exist.
Even Hodgson’s cursed reply to recent criticism has caused little waves amongst the press pack.
I am struggling to recognise what your gripe is, aside from slagging off this website. What exactly in this piece do you find misleading, false, or unfair?
Paddy or Roy himself would struggle to add to the utter bollocks you appear to be spouting in defence of England’s current manager.
Another apt Simpsons quote from a classic episode (yes, when the show was funny) that can be bastardised to apply to the gormless prick…
“Hodgson, the Liverpool people have never tolerated incompetence in their LFC officials. You are going to crash and burn my fatheaded friend.” – Ray Patterson (Sanitation Commissioner).
Best thing for woy is now even if he gets sacked he’ll still get plenty of tv gigs and be introduced as the former liverpool and england manager. As an irish man i think woy is brilliant and should be england manager for the next 20 years