Roy Hodgson can provide the reality check England needs
Roy Hodgson's brand of middle management may just be the reality check that the Three Lions have so desperately required
As Roy Hodgson becomes the 13th permanent England manager, that unlucky number appears increasingly ominous.
The current West Bromwich Albion chief faces a severe uphill task as he embarks on possibly the most poisoned chalice in his lengthy and varied coaching career. It is nothing new for him, of course.
At Blackburn, he had to cope with the shadow of Kenny Dalglish’s legacy at Ewood Park, and failed. That same shadow lingered larger at Liverpool in his next high profile appointment, some 13 years later, when he was considered more experienced in the game’s modern era than the Scot.
Sitting in Anfield’s once glittering trophy room, in July 2010, he claimed he had been hired “on merit”. The reality was quite the opposite and everyone, bar Hodgson himself, knew it.
Financially, he was the most, if only attainable candidate at a time when speculation wrongly placed the likes of Jose Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini among the candidacy for Rafael Benitez’s successor.
He was perceived as being solely culpable for the club’s failings, which actually pre-date Dalglish’s first spell in charge. As tumultuous as his short-lived tenure as Reds manager was, it should not rank as anything more than a momentary blot on the club’s largely immaculate copybook.
Because even Dalglish, Liverpool’s equivalent to the time-travelling Emmett Brown and Marty McFly, is struggling to transfer his 1980s methodology to a club that had largely resisted 21st century changes, prior to the arrival of Fenway Sports Group, the club’s current owners.
It was as much a stain on Hodgson’s reptuation as his journeymen managerial statistics. Wembley will be his 20th coaching role in a 37-year career, which has justified the understandable cynicism from those previously cheerleading Harry Redknapp’s bid to preside over the national side.
Short-termism, it seems, is Hodgson’s specialty. His average stay, for club or country, has been a maximum of two years. The four-year contract handed down by FA chiefs yesterday afternoon was nothing more than a license for the 64-year-old to print money should he be prematurely axed.
His last spell of an equal timescale anywhere was with Malmo FF, some 23 years ago, in 1989. The closest he came to seeing out anything near the deal was during his three-year stay at Fulham.
But for what Hodgson lacks in staying power, he is able to compensate in technical expertise, with his participation in countless Uefa committees likely to prove more help than hinderance in the development of St George’s Park, the new home of English football in Burton-upon-Trent.
A middle management approach in the dugout has, Anfield aside, served him extremely well. Lowering ambitions is something of which England are in dire need, as they head into this summer’s European Championships with the burden of the 1966 World Cup-winning side continuing to weigh heavily.
Whilst the likes of Spain and Germany have innovated their way to on field success, the ‘Rule Britannia’ delusion that England can consider itself among international football’s heavyweights has become as outdated as that solitary triumph exactly 46 summers ago.
Hodgson’s brand of middle management may just be the reality check that the Three Lions have so desperately required after both home grown media darlings and the continental elite failed to overcome the mediocrity of the situation they inherited – but only if he is given time.