When the FA appointed Roy Hodgson as manager of the England team on May 1 2012, I, along with the rest of the football-watching world was surprised. Surprised, but definitely pleased. Most observers would readily admit they expected Harry Redknapp to be placed in charge, so naming the then West Bromwich Albion manager as the new head of the national team was met with a degree of faintly amused bewilderment.
The likeable 66-year-old had been doing a decent job at the Hawthorns where he had been manager since February 2011, but in the eyes of the public he was still recovering from a mutually unsatisfactory stint in charge of Liverpool, so it was a shrewd punter indeed who backed the Croydon-born ex-defender for one of the hardest jobs in football.
Upon further investigation, it became clear why Hodgson was the FA’s choice. He has managed 16 different teams in eight countries, and can speak five different languages. This is clearly not a man afraid of a challenge. Delve further in to his intriguing background and it’s difficult not to be impressed. In 1995 Hodgson took over at Italian giants Inter, joining the club at a time of rebuilding. He took over with the club bottom of Serie A, ending the season in seventh. The following term he steered the Nerazzurri to third place and a Uefa Cup final.
Hodgson has managed at other noteworthy clubs including Malmo, Blackburn Rovers, Udinese, Fulham and Liverpool, but before taking over with England he had international experience, too.
Hodgson’s first stint at the helm of an international team came in 1992, when he took over the Swiss national side. His appointment didn’t cause much of a stir – Switzerland were regarded as minnows and hadn’t qualified for a major international tournament since 1966. This was to change under Hodgson as he led the Swiss to the World Cup in 1994 and the European Championships in 1996. After two creditable campaigns, Hodgson’s Switzerland were at one stage ranked as high as third in the Fifa standings.
Hodgson, whose playing career was spent largely in non-league football, was to garner further international experience, enjoying successful spells in charge of the United Arab Emirates and Finland – again, leaving no-one in any doubt that he was prepared to accept difficult and challenging assignments. Hodgson’s reputation as a coach has grown inexorably since his career began, something that didn’t go un-noticed by Germany, who approached him to be their manager, before the move was blocked by Franz Beckenbauer who was adamant the German national coach should be home grown. Whilst Hodgson does speak German, he was unable to persuade ‘Der Kaiser’ that he wasn’t more London than Leipzig.
So after a varied, exciting, inspiring and unorthodox career, Roy Hodgson began what many call ‘the impossible job’ on May 14 2012. He took control of England’s Euro 2012 campaign, and whilst it ended in familiar circumstances – a penalty shootout defeat – Hodgson was credited with stopping the rot that had so evidently set in during the World Cup in South Africa.
Two years on and more is expected. With the World Cup approaching, Hodgson is saying all the right things, suggesting that England will be positive, looking to take the game to the opposition instead of adopting the more cautious approach that has been the characteristic of so many England sides before. The time is fast approaching where the world will see if the England players can walk the walk to match Hodgson’s talk. One thing is for certain however; there aren’t many managers who could deliver that talk in five different languages…
Good luck Roy. Come on England!