The reason for the ‘so called’ underperformance of the English national team has been laid at the door of the Premier League many times with several different theories.
One reason that has never been mentioned is the way that the management structure of English football clubs is not only different from that of most other football clubs but also of most major clubs in any sports in the world.
Most major clubs use either a general manager or sporting director whose job it is to control the buying and selling of players within the budgeting restraints of the clubs, albeit with input from the Head Coach. Whereas the Head Coach, which most English fans would confuse with a traditional manager, can concentrate on actually coaching the players he does have and the tactics he can employ using them.
So, where does this relate to the appointment of Hodgson as England manager?
Well, the England job is basically as closely related to the Head Coach role as it is feasibly possible for club management to be. Therefore it would be an advantage for someone who is used to that style of management by having spent time on the continent. In essence that leaves just two candidates for the job and I am pretty sure that the name of Steve McClaren would not have been mentioned in relation to the job this time around.
Since starting his managerial career in Sweden at Halmstad, Roy Hodgson is so ingrained in this set up that he still insists on being called the Head Coach at West Brom and will likely do so when he takes charge of the national team. The last person to do that was Terry Venables and he turned out alright.
The favourite for the England post had been Harry Redknapp yet the Spurs boss has no experience of international management nor of managing a club side on the continent. The fact that the West Brom Head Coach can tick both these criterion boosts Hodgson’s credentials further since just over four years ago, in a two year reign as boss of Finland, he came within three points of taking a country that has never qualified for a major tournament to Euro 2008, before choosing to join Fulham instead of staying on for the World Cup qualifiers.
Meanwhile, back in the early nineties, he also took charge of Switzerland where he not only took them to the second round of the 1994 World Cup (of which England did not even qualify) and then secured qualification for Euro ’96 but oversaw their ascent to third in the FIFA world rankings. Third! A Switzerland team including Marc Hottinger of Newcastle and Everton, plus Marco Pascolo who went on to play for Nottingham Forest . Remember them? If so you have a rather better memory than me.
Hodgson left Switzerland before Euro ’96 kicked-off to join Inter and admittedly the stats of his reign with Inter Milan were modest. A seventh place finish in his first season was seen to have had enough of a positive impact to stay on another term and he reached the UEFA Cup final the next year. The Italian side had faith enough in Hodgson to call him back in a crisis to take over as a technical director in 1999.
It needs to be mentioned that international management is about having the ability to make an impact on the training field, particularly when you consider the small timescales in which an international boss has to work with his players, and to be able to get a tactical edge on the opposition.
In terms of training, the reaction from the footballing world is overwhelmingly positive. It is not just the likes of Keith Andrews who are spouting just how wonderful a coach that Roy Hodgson actually is. Former players who have absolutely nothing to gain by extolling the virtues of Hodgson are coming out in support of his methods.
Although, to be fair, there is not much Andrews could gain if Hodgson took the job considering he is an Ireland international. The point though is valid, not a single quote from an ex-Hodgson player, as of yet, has been anything other than calling him one of the best coaches they have ever worked for.
To appreciate Hodgson’s tactical know-how, just put on the videos of Fulham’s matches in the knockout stages of the Europa League run. During that run, he was able to outthink Juventus, Wolfsburg, Hamburg and was able to stifle overwhelming favourites Athletico Madrid for ninety minutes.
Roy Hodgson has the ability to overachieve with average sides, that is his unique selling point. The difficulty he will have is dealing with egos in the England dressing room who may well not believe that they will need a tactical ‘gimmick’ as it were, to beat the best international sides.
In previous championships, Denmark and Greece players understood that and came away with the Henri Delaunay Trophy. In truth, the appointment of Roy Hodgson is the right one, but perhaps about a decade too late. Not because of his own personal age, but because of the superiority complex that some English players appear to have developed over the last ten years.
The press and the public who wanted Redknapp in may be disappointed with the FA’s choice but if we can lower the national expectations and allow Hodgson to lay the correct coaching foundations for the next ten years then this will be seen as a positive step in the right direction for England.
Tags: David Bernstein, England, Euro 2012, Harry Redknapp, Roy Hodgson, The FA