Monday, 30 April 2012

The Right Man For The Job?

Crikey! It’s not going to be ‘Arry after all.

It seems that the FA have made their decision, choosing affable old Roy Hodgson as the next England manager. It’s a brave move from both parties: the media will be circling like sharks in freshly chummed water, waiting for the slightest excuse to devour the new incumbent. Hodgson, meanwhile, knows full well that he is drinking from a poisoned chalice. After having his fingers burned by the media glare at Anfield, it’s only a matter of time before he’s thrust into the fire again.

Redknapp was nailed on for the job. Lauded by his friends in the press, wanted by the players and, the league table suggests, the best Englishman for the job. Leaving aside the absurd insistence that we have an English manager, was Redknapp really the best man for the job?

Redknapp’s managerial history is checkered at best. Despite being in his sixties he’s only ever won one trophy (the FA Cup with Portsmouth), has seen countless clubs go bankrupt in the aftermath of his stewardship, has managed to alienate excellent players like Darren Bent and has admitted his own tactical naivety.

In the wake of his court-case – in which he was cleared of wrongdoing, lest we forget – Redknapp has seen his Spurs team crumble atrociously. For this, the manager is largely accountable. Having abandoned the wing-play which characterised Tottenham’s surge up the table in favour of midfield tinkering, Gareth Bale’s newly minted license to wander and Aaron Lennon’s spell on the treatment table, one has to question his decision to allow Steven Pienaar to leave on loan. And having bemoaned the lack of depth in his squad recently, one can only point at players like Vedran Corluka, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Sebastian Bassong who left White Hart Lane in January.

Of course, similar accusations can be levelled at Hodgson following his woeful spell at Liverpool. His signings struggled hugely, his brand of football did little to appease the aesthetes of Anfield and his win percentage was awful. He was the wrong fit for the club: although Kenny Dalglish’s near identical record suggests that the Mersey malaise runs deeper than first feared.

Since his dismissal, however, Hodgson has reinvigorated his career at West Brom. His impact was
immediate, his record enviable, their brand of football easy on the eye. Allied with his excellent record at Fulham – not least in their successful Europa League campaign – Hodgson’s nightmare at Liverpool seems like a blip on an otherwise excellent CV. Spells in charge clubs across Europe – including Inter Milan – and in charge of several national teams give Hodgson’s candidacy for the role extra gravitas: he’s got more continental experience than anyone else in England. He also lives in the midlands, close to the FA’s new base at Burton – much closer than Harry’s pad on the south coast.

For too long, the FA has vacillated between two desires: do they want a worldly coach with impeccable credentials or an Englishman who can relate to the players. The alternating nature of their recent appointments reflects this perfectly: Hoddle/Eriksson/McClaren/Capello and now Hodgson. Except this time, he’s a man with a foot in both camps. He might not be the biggest name, he might not dispense soundbites outside the training ground and he might not excite the public – but for once, the FA might have actually got this right.

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