Roy Hodgson has been under the intense spotlight within the pressure cooker of a role that is the England Manager for just over a month. Whilst I, along with virtually every other England fan wanted Harry Redknapp to be given the job or at least given an interview I have been impressed with the early stages of Roy’s reign. For The FA he was the perfect candidate, the safe choice as he suits their politics, this perhaps why they didn’t pursue Redknapp. Amazingly during Hodgson’s first press conference #HodgsonOut was trending number one worldwide on Twitter which just shows the fickle nature of today’s football fan. Some fans were frustrated and disappointed at the omission of players such as Micah Richards and Rio Ferdinand from his final squad whilst others were just frustrated at Hodgson’s appointment altogether. Roy knew he had to win over the fans and media alike, simply because he is not Harry Redknapp. Roy is approachable, open-minded and is more substance over style; these characteristics have been noticeable thus far.
In four years within the role of England manager Fabio Capello made very little effort to improve his English and it had obvious implications when communicating with players, fans and the media. That said as England fans we have to be delighted that we have appointed Croydon-born Hodgson as our manager, even if our last English manager was Steve McClaren. Roy sees himself as a coach rather than a manager and this would definitely prove beneficial when it comes to engaging with the players. In contrast to this Capello saw himself as a manager and his assistant Franco Baldini did the coaching. Another positive about the appointment of Roy was that he has international experience. Capello had an incredible CV with regards to club management but when it mattered in an international tournament he didn’t cut it. We have seen this also happen when World Cup winning coach Luis Scolari failed miserably at Chelsea. In Hodgson’s time in Switzerland he guided them to the World Cup in ’94, the Euros in ’96 and during their peak under Hodgson they were ranked the third best nation in the world by FIFA.
Due to Capello walking out four months prior to the Euros there are releatively low expectations placed on England; for once. Despite not reaching a semi-final since 1996 amazingly the bookies made England second favourites for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The fans really do believe the media hype and start to believe England will win every tournament they enter and patriotism often rules the head. The lower expectations this time meant England’s chances were rated at an initial 16/1 and now currently sit at 14/1. Despite these odds the patriotism has again been shown with William Hill releasing information that showed England have been backed more than any other team to win the Euros this summer. Interestingly when England won the World Cup in 1966 it didn’t even make the front page of newspapers, which is in stark contrast to the media frenzy that surrounds the England team today.
Roy has done well to ensure there is little media hype about the team’s chances admitting in his first press conference that he hadn’t even started looking at videos and doing research on England’s first opponents France. He’s doing a good job at keeping the fans and media grounded to help ensure the players are focussed. Gary Neville was a very astute appointment in my opinion. He knows the players well, has a wealth of international experience and looks very suited to the role. Some criticised the appointment due to his role at Sky questioning how he could criticise the players on a Sunday then meet up with them during the week. Neville moved swiftly to dismiss the chances of this happening and also stated that expectations with England are always high but we need to be realistic and look at the top draw teams in the tournament.
Hodgson’s first major decision to make as England manager was whether to take John Terry or Rio Ferdinand to the Euros. Inevitably Roy wouldn’t pick both of them as there would be a media circus surrounding the England camp and questions being constantly asked regarding the pair. Roy entered this saga when he took the job and was placed in a lose-lose situation. Pick Rio and there would be questions about his fitness and claims that Terry shouldn’t be left out because he is innocent until proven guilty. By picking Terry and leaving out Rio there was a media furore. Roy tried to play down the situation stating it was for “football reasons.” Following the injury and withdrawal of Gary Cahill many thought Rio would receive a call-up but Roy opted for newly-capped fullback Martin Kelly. Again this decision resulted in more scrutiny from the media and fans alike. The same fans calling for Ferdinand’s inclusion were the same fans that were stating that Capello should remove the old guard and put younger players into the squad. How ironic.
The injuries England has faced have been unbelievable. Darren Bent and Jack Wilshere injured before the squad announcement, then incredibly Gary Cahill, John Ruddy, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry having to withdraw through injury. I can’t remember England suffering so many injuries heading into a tournament and this has presented yet more problems to Hodgson during his preparations. So heading into a major tournament Hodgson has faced an uphill task with only two friendlies in charge, six injuries to deal with, the Rio Ferdinand frenzy and add to that Wayne Rooney’s suspension for the first two games.
If we are looking optimistically Roy has a 100% record managing England and they haven’t conceded a goal. Realistically though England were poor in the second half against Norway and only had one shot on target against Belgium. Obviously the statistics from Roy’s first two friendlies show England won’t be an attacking, attractive force. What they will be though is hard to beat. Watching England in the last two games has been just like watching Fulham under Hodgson. England look very difficult to break down and look extremely effective playing the counter-attack game with pace going forward from Welbeck, Young, Walcott and co. Chelsea played ‘defensively’ in the Champions League and won it and I think we would all sacrifice entertaining football for the chance of England winning a trophy.
Roy has impressed me in dealing with all the issues that were out of his control and by making England more solid and compact. With Hodgson’s reputation forged on getting the best out of good teams (Fulham, West Brom, Switzerland) rather than the top teams (Liverpool, Inter Milan) there are reasons to be optimistic for England fans. We finally realise we can’t compete with the top European nations technically but maybe with Roy’s counter-attacking game we can. We look set to be in for a cagey, nervy affair at the Euros but I for one cannot wait.