x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

England settle on a native but nomadic Roy Hodgson

The West Brom coach has garnered international experience coaching countries such as Switzerland and the UAE.

Roy Hodgson will take over as England's new manager after West Bromwich Albion's final game of the season on May 13. Luke MacGregor / Reuters
Roy Hodgson will take over as England's new manager after West Bromwich Albion's final game of the season on May 13. Luke MacGregor / Reuters

England's managers in recent decades can be divided into two groups: Englishmen with little knowledge of international football and foreigners with no experience in English football.

In choosing as their new manager Roy Hodgson, an Englishman with extensive international experience, England's Football Association are at least doing something different.

Hodgson becomes the first England coach to be appointed after previously leading another national team.

Hodgson has coached Switzerland, the UAE and Finland, making him one of the best-travelled coaches England has produced.

After impressing domestically in Sweden and then Switzerland, he earned the Swiss national job while still barely known in his homeland. The Swiss had not reached a major tournament since 1966, but Hodgson took them to the 1994 World Cup and also to the 1996 European Championship, where they went out in the first round but managed a creditable 1-1 draw with hosts England.

Switzerland's World Cup run and success in Euro '96 qualifying landed Hodgson a job in 1995 at Inter Milan, where he reached the Uefa Cup final in 1997, before departing for Blackburn Rovers.

He coached Grasshoppers, Copenhagen, Udinese, the UAE and Viking FK before taking unheralded Finland to the brink of qualification for the 2008 European Championship.

Hodgson finally made his mark in his homeland with Fulham, the small club in west London. He took over during the 2007/08 season and masterminded a relegation rescue act: Fulham won four of their last five games, including three successive away victories. The following year he guided the club to their best Premier League finish, seventh place.

In 2010, he was voted Manager of the Year by his fellow professionals for taking Fulham on a memorable run to the Europa League final, a surge that included a victory over Juventus.

His rising stock landed him a top job in England for the first time, at Liverpool, but he endured a miserable six months at Anfield before being fired amid fan discontent.

The Liverpool he encountered were not the Liverpool current manager Kenny Dalglish served so ably as a player. Instead, Hodgson found himself having to restore the fortunes of the Merseysiders, last crowned England champions in 1990, against a backdrop of boardroom wrangling and with an Anfield hero, in Dalglish, waiting in the wings.

Hodgson was able to rebuild his reputation at West Bromwich Albion, and he repaid that club's faith by keeping them in the Premier League. He leaves West Brom as a mid-table team in England's top division.

He apparently was told by the FA, when joining West Brom last year, not to tie himself into a long contract. The FA knew they would need a successor for Fabio Capello and did not want to be paying a huge compensation package.

Yet such is English football's insularity that Hodgson's league titles in Sweden and Denmark, as well as taking charge of an undeniably "big club" in Inter, is often downplayed.

Instead critics focus on his unsuccessful spells in charge of Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool while decrying his achievements with "small" clubs such as Fulham and West Brom.

And, as was the case at Liverpool, Hodgson finds himself starting a job with many people wishing it had gone to someone else.

In this case it is Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hostpur manager and fans favourite. Redknapp is a far more media-friendly character than Hodgson, who in contrast is portrayed as the choice of the dull "suits" in the FA. Yet Redknapp's only major piece of silverware as a manager is the 2008 FA Cup he lifted with Portsmouth.

Hodgson, 64, who yesterday agreed a four-year contract with the FA, cannot match Redknapp for "man of the people" popularity and in having taken West Brom to 10th in the table this term was damned as "Mr Average" by the Daily Mail.

Those who have played under him laud his preparation and tactics.

"He is probably the best man-manager I've ever worked with. He always made you believe in yourself," the former Sweden midfielder Stefan Schwarz, a member of Hodgson's Malmo team of the 1980s, told the Daily Telegraph.

Switzerland's Ramon Vega said: "He's very good at the tactical side of the game, He won't have to teach England's players how to play but we will have to teach them how to beat the opposition. We were always well prepared."

Hodgson's appointment just six weeks ahead of Euro 2012 gives him and the FA a ready-made excuse if England perform poorly in Poland and Ukraine.

Longer term, if Hodgson fails to deliver England a major trophy it may well be for the familiar, if politically unpalatable, reason that the players just are not good enough.

But the FA are trying to reform themselves. The kind of national training centre commonplace for decades the world over is about to be delivered for England at St George's Park in the Midlands town of Burton.

At last, the realisation is dawning that a successful England team is about much more than just finding a managerial magician.

* The National staff with agencies