After failing to break through the ranks at his home club Crystal Palace, Hodgson played non-league football throughout his playing career. This doesn’t bring much hope for his chances of managing in one of the largest tournaments in the world – the Euros. However, one thing that all the great managers like Mourinho or Ferguson have in common is that, in their playing days, they were fairly average players at best.
On to the managerial side of the game, Hodgson cut his teeth in Swedish football, taking over Halmstad BK. This is where he began to become exceptional. His success with Halmstad in 1976 is considered one of the biggest surprises of all time in Swedish football – the year before, Halmstad had struggled against relegation and only scraped through on goal difference. Hodgson himself says that “my greatest achievement would have to be the water into wine job at Halmstads BK.”
His “water to wine” work continued during his first swing at national football, taking the Swiss national team to the world cup of 1994, where they qualified for their first major tournament since 1966. At their peak while managed by Hodgson, Switzerland were rated the third best international side in the world, according to the Fifa World Rankings. Quite the achievement.
And so, with a record like this, why has he come under so much fire from the press and fans alike during his time with England? Surely he’s better than Steve Mcclaren or Fabio Capello? His squad selection for the Euros of 2012 created animosity, in particular his decision to leave out centre-back Rio Ferdinand. However, despite this upset, England finished top of their group, and held out the Italians to force the game to penalties, in which the inevitable happened.
The World Cup in 2014 did his popularity no favours. England failed to make it out of the group after spectacularly bottling it against Uruguay. His fresh faced team, including new faces of Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley looked somewhat unexperienced, although this was exactly what the nation wanted and the team needed.
Now, we’re older, more experienced, and quite frankly, better at football. Our squad includes the strongest of the premier league, with Jamie Vardy, who’s looking to continue his party following a league topping year with Leicester, and Tottenham superstar Harry Kane.
Can Roy pull off another ‘water to wine’ job with his previously uninspiring England side? We think so. True to style, his squad selection has left some scratching heads, such as leaving the match fit and league winning Danny Drinkwater at home and choosing Jack Wilshere, who is yet to have a full game this season, over him.
But on the subject of the midfield, I’m again feeling hopeful. Previously it’s been a problem area for the national side, despite having world class centre-mids like Scholes, Lampard, and Gerrard, they never gelled and never really played properly as a unit. This is (hopefully) a thing of the past due to our predominantly Tottenham midfield – the spine of the team in Dier, Alli, and Kane, have been phenomenal for their club all season, and the understanding between Alli and Kane has already been shown in the qualifying rounds and pre-tournament friendlies.
The youth and passion in this England team is something that has been greatly lacking since Euro 1996. We’ve been unimpressive, individualistic and, bluntly, a bit rubbish since then. But Roy’s history has shown his ability to turn around previously written off sides both domestically and internationally, and personally, I’m inclined to trust him.
As long as there are no injuries and the superstars turn up and perform, I see no reason why couldn’t do it again. Rule Britannia.
By James Doherty.