x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Roy Hodgson appointment means FA is no longer married to the mob

The point is not who the English FA chose instead of Redknapp, but that they had the backbone to choose someone else at all.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 01: New England manager Roy Hodgson poses after a press conference at Wembley Stadium on May 1, 2012 in London, England. (Andy Couldridge - Pool/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** 143635271.jpg
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 01: New England manager Roy Hodgson poses after a press conference at Wembley Stadium on May 1, 2012 in London, England. (Andy Couldridge - Pool/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** 143635271.jpg

The popular reaction to Roy Hodgson's appointment as the manager of the England football team was not good.

It ranged from grudging acceptance and damning with faint praise to vicious barbs about his ambition, stature in the game and - disgracefully - his minor speech impediment.

Instead of moaning, England supporters should erect the trestle tables and pin up the bunting for a street party.

The silverware remains a long way off but, in picking Hodgson over Harry Redknapp, the Football Association has finally unshackled a millstone from around its neck: the need to appease the mob.

For too long, the England set-up has been hamstrung by making crowd-pleasing, instead of football, decisions.

On the pitch its managers bought into the national clamour of Great White Hopes like David Beckham and Wayne Rooney, building teams which could be brought tumbling down by a single red mist or mangled metatarsal.

They also failed to make hard and unpopular decisions like choosing between Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, instead opting to keep Chelsea and Liverpool fans happy by cramming them both in.

Off the pitch, the blazers always had one eye on the crowd when appointing managers, causing them to lurch from one disappointment to the next.

Fabio Capello was the big gun demanded following the flop of the small fry Steve McClaren, who was the honest Englishman demanded following the foreign mercenary Sven-Goran Eriksson, who was the sophisticated intellectual demanded following the unbridled passion of Kevin Keegan, who was the loveable national treasure demanded after the public relations nightmare caused by Glenn Hoddle.

It was a cycle which needed breaking, and that is what the FA has done.

This time, the England fans were demanding an avuncular figure following the icy detachment, both linguistically and culturally, of Capello.

Although Hodgson ticks that box, for England fans, and particularly the media, he is the wrong sort of avuncular.

Hodgson is like the dour uncle who, at a family party, might ask sternly if you are knuckling down to your studies before dispensing unsolicited advice about the wisest route home.

Redknapp, on the other hand, seems more like the fun uncle who tells racy jokes and slips a folded bank note into your top pocket with a wink and a "make sure you spend it all on sweets".

But the difference between the two men is academic. The point is not who the FA chose instead of Redknapp, but that they had the backbone to choose someone else at all.

When Redknapp was cleared of tax evasion on the same day that Capello quit England, the nation swallowed a fairy tale: the stars had aligned for a simple coronation of the Spurs manager.

England players Tweeted their desire to see Redknapp in the dugout; Spurs fans began discussing replacements (they wanted Jose Mourinho but would probably have got David Moyes).

The clamour was relentless but, like a parent standing up to a tantrum-prone teenager, the FA said no. And, as with any spoilt child who experiences discipline, it will be short-term pain for long-term gain.

If football was ever going to "come home", then surely that home needed to be in order.

Maybe, just maybe, it is now.

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