Has Roy Hodgson got what it takes?

by Ray_North on April 30, 2012

Well, I didn’t see this coming, though as someone who predicted that Newcastle United would be relegated this season, I don’t suppose I should be too surprised at the fact that I hadn’t predicted that the FA would plump for Roy Hodgson rather than Harry Redknapp to be the new England manager.

Very interesting. But, has Roy got what it takes to do a good job for England? Indeed, has anyone got what it takes to do a good job for the England football team, after all, many have tried and, with the exception of Sir Alf Ramsey, all have failed.

So, let’s start with Sir Alf – why was he a good manager for England?

Well, in my view, there are four virtues that any good international football manager needs:

first – a collection of excellent players who are willing to give all to the cause;
second – enough footballing nous to put them into a system that will play to their strengths;
third – the man management skills to ensure that said player trust you and are willing to work for you;
fourth – luck, and loads of it.

Sir Alf, in 1966, had the full set – in terms of players he was fortunate enough to have in Banks, Moore, Charlton and Jimmy Greaves four world class players. He also knew exactly what system he believed needed to be employed to get the best out of them – jettisoning wingers in favour of hard-working midfielders in the shape of Alan Ball and Martin Peters (who, to be fair, were also technically excellent) and even overlooking Greaves in favour of the tireless running of Geoff Hurst after Greaves had been injured in one of the group matches. In addition, he had the respect of the players, Moore and Charlton trusted him impeccably, and as a result none of the squad questioned his means or his methods of discipline. And, finally, he was fortunate enough to have the World Cup at home in England and a linesman who was prepared to nod in assent when asked the question – ‘so did the ball go over the line then?’

Since, Sir Alf, successive England managers have enjoyed some of these virtues, but, not all of them:

Don Revie, had the players, but was baffled by the problem of setting them up in a winning way;

Graham Taylor, didn’t have the players, nor, one suspects the man management skills to make them subjugate their egos for the national cause;

Ron Greenwood, who I believe, had a superb squad in 1982 which he had set up brilliantly, saw luck desert him, when a half-fit Kevin Keegan couldn’t convert the simplest of chances in their final game, that would have taken England through to a Semi-Final match against France, who they had already beaten in the opening game;

Terry Venables, probably had the man management skills and, in Euro 96, appeared to have happened upon a formula to best utilise the squad, but lost on penalties, which is, as the cliche goes, a lottery;

Sir Bobby Robson had a similar experience in seeing his luck desert him in a penalty shoot-out in 1990, after he had, in a moment of genius, changed his tactics to introduce a sweeper system, which for a few glorious weeks promised to propel England to the final of a World Cup.

Since Euro 96, however, the England managers job has become increasingly difficult as the pressure has mounted upon them to pick certain players who are well liked amongst the media. A case in point is Frank Lampard. No one can doubt that Lampard is a great goal-scoring midfielder in the Premiership, but, at international level, he lacks the guile and technique to be a true world beater; he also finds it difficult to forge a partnership with Steven Gerrard, who is a better player operating in a similar position. Erikson, McLaren and Capello have all persisted in playing players from the so called ‘golden generation’ who have failed for one reason or another to ferment into a team structure capable of winning matches. In 1966, Sir Alf had no difficult whatsoever in getting rid of the players he thought was unsuitable to the way in which he wanted to play (after all, he quickly discarded Johnny Haynes, who was regarded as the best ball playing midfielder of his generation, and picked Nobby Stiles, a blind, bandy legged bloke who liked to kick people) – I can see now that if Roy Hodgson tried to drop Frank Lampard (or, in the alternative Steven Gerrard for that matter), or wanted to overlook John Terry or Rio Ferdinand, he, just like Steve McLaren (who was castigated after he, rightly, dropped David Beckham) would be crucified.

The biggest question for Hodgson therefore, is will he be brave enough to select the team he wants, and will he have skin thick enough to take the criticism that’s going to come his way if he does. I have a sneaking feeling that he will prove to be an inspired choice. After all, Roy Hodgson, an undoubtedly intelligent man, is at an age when he will be quite content to go about the England job in a particular way, and select the players he thinks best suited to the game he believes will succeed at international level. He also has a better pedigree at international level than some of the other contenders (Harry Redknapp has done nothing in Europe and never managed an international team at any level).

Perhaps Roy’s biggest problem will be the most fundamental one – a lack of genuine world class players – he doesn’t need eleven, but three or four in key positions together with international class players in every other position is crucial. At present, the only player who has show himself to be a consistently world class performer on the international stage is (and I hate to say it), Ashley Cole; others, such as Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney have only ever shown their undoubted class sporadically in an England shirt (though Gerrard, to be fair, has more often than not been played out of position in an England shirt). Hodgson will need to set England up to play in a way that utilises their skills and brings out the best in the others. Again, I am confident in Roy Hodgson’s ability to do this – though I am less confident in the England players ability to think as a team rather than as a disparate collection of pampered, prima-donnas.

So, has Roy Hodgson got what it takes – yes. Will he succeed as England manager, probably not.

I wish him luck – because he’ll need tonnes of the stuff!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

nino April 30, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Does anyone care about national teams anymore? Previous managers had the advantage of massive public interest. Even here in Italy interest in the Euros is extremely flat with all the interest being in the tussle between Juve and Milan for the Scudetto. The big spoiler is always the same – money….heaps of it! And it’s all in the hands of the clubs. A talented manager like Redknapp would have been wasted in the England job. Also, the FA have a great talent for mediocrity which allied with an irrelevant puritanical moral code will guarantee a consistent level of underachievement for a frustratingly long time. As the great Yosser Hughes once said “I can do that! Giussajob!?”


Mike Killingworth May 1, 2012 at 8:50 am

Absolutely on the money, Nino. Hodgson won’t have a single player who wouldn’t rather win the European Cup with his club than the World Cup.

What says it all for me is the both Redknapp and Hodgson qualify for Bus Passes and are at the end of their careers. How old was Ramsay when he got the job? Forty-three. How many 43-year-olds wanted it this time?


Geoff Elliott May 1, 2012 at 9:55 am

Good luck to him but, as a Welshman and a Liverpool fan, I couldn’t really care less. I predict the shortest honeymoon in England manager history.

Spain and Germany are hardly going to be having sleepless nights ahead of the Euros are they? Senior players publicly stated they wanted Redknapp.

The Kop was singing ‘Hodgson for England’ in December 2010. A wish fulfilled.


Ray_North May 1, 2012 at 10:35 am

Even as a Welshman, I am intrigued by the English football team – i don’t lose sleep when they lose and I don’t celebrate when they win, but, I prefer them to be there and I love the debate about who should play and who shouldn’t. Usually, the biggest problem for England is the overwhelming arrogance of the players and media who seem to believe that somehow all they have to do is turn up and ‘lesser nations’ will be overcome by their footballing might. In reality, England have been consistently mediocre for years. But, the beauty of international football tournaments, is that mediocrity can be turned into success quite quickly and in the most unlikely of circumstances (think Denmark in 1992, Greece in 2004, Bulgaria in the 94 World Cup, Turkey in 2002) – and, if England suddenly turned mediocrity into team spirit and coherent football, then I think that the nation would suddenly learn to love their national team again.
It could happen under Roy Hodgson, though in reality, it is just as likely to happen under Roy Hattersley!


Charlie East West May 3, 2012 at 12:01 pm

‎’Bwing on the Euwos’ say The Sun.
Hodgson does not stand a chance. The death by a thousand cuts from the feral press has already started.



George_East May 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I agree – it was a disgraceful and predictable front page. The Sun may have always been vicious and nasty, but at least at its best, it used to be funny.


Dan May 12, 2012 at 5:57 pm

I just wish The Sun and other papers would leave him alone! He hasn’t even had his first game yet so really no body knows what’s going to happen. He could end up being one of the best mangers, I doubt it, but until he plays some games, no one knows. He hasn’t even released his squad yet so I don’t see any room for critisism. I personally think that he could do a good job with the right players but we’ll just have to see. Get rid of Rooney and Ferdinand, they don’t need to go. Rooney has a 2 match ban anyway!


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