Roy Hodgson is one of the great unsung English managers of the last 30 years and I’m a big fan of England’s most underrated manager.
A polite, erudite professor of the game and an intelligent, well spoken man, he’s simply never received the recognition his career and achievements deserve in England due to the majority of his success being on foreign shores. When he was installed as Lawrie Sanchez’s successor at Fulham, it would be fair to say that more than a few eyebrows were raised toward Craven Cottage and the consensus was that Fulham were doomed for the drop. It’s now one of the great defining moments of the 2007-2008 season when Fulham were away at Manchester City and went 2-0, the results were such at the time they were actually relegated until they scored 3 goals in the last 20 minutes and went on to survive on goal difference as their form picked up dramatically.
The European perception of Hodgson though is poles apart from his homelands opinion of him. A legend in Sweden, Finland and Switzerland, highly rated in Italy and Germany, he is every inch the renaissance man. With 7 titles under his belt in Sweden between 1976 and 1990, his move to Neuchatel Xamax in Switzerland was the defining period in his career, his success at domestic level convincing the Swiss FA to make him the national teams manager, taking them to USA 94 and getting through the qualification to Euro 1996, held in England. Since that period, Hodgson has been in demand by clubs and countries the world over with the exception of England due to his last period of employment in the Premiership.
All too much is made of his brief stint at Blackburn Rovers, more so his final 6 months at Blackburn, his critics point to the signing of Kevin Davies for £7.5 million as his main offence of a man out of touch with the game and abilities of players. The fact that often gets over looked about the Davies transfer is that Davies became seriously ill just weeks after joining Rovers and never recovered at Ewood Park. The self same critics also manage to forget that Davies was runner up in the Premiership Young Player of the Year award behind Michael Owen in 1997-1998 season. Suffice to say, 10 years later, Davies is still playing in the Premiership and has been one of the most consistent performers in the top league for the last few seasons. Yet people forget that Hodgson had guided Rovers back into European football in the 1997-1998 season and the Rovers board panicked when the team seemed to struggle until November when he was released from his position as manager. If they’d kept faith with him, I’ve no doubt they would have stayed up, rather than the terrible run they endured under Brian Kidd(£4.5 million for Ashley Ward anyone).
It’s this spell that has always gone against him in England, his critics never look to his success with Switzerland, the fact he almost got Finland to Euro 2008 only to fall at the final fence, his consideration to become the German manager in 1999, Massimo Moratti at Inters utmost respect for him and his reputation in Scandinavian football. When the FA failed to lure Big Phil to take over the England managers job in 2006, they should have gone to Hodgson. Instead they appointed a man that makes me angry just thinking about those wasted two years under the tactical buffoon, Perma-smile Mclaren.
There is no doubting that Hodgson is a fine manager, tactically astute and a lover of the beautiful game. He knows he’ll be under pressure this season, but I have full faith in his ability to get Fulham well away from the drop zone. He’s been the busiest manager in the transfer market so far over the summer, bringing in 10 players, including Bobby Zamora, John Pantsil, Mark Schwarzer, Andy Teymourian, Zoltan Gera and smashing Fulhams transfer record with the purchase of Andy Johnson from Everton for £10.5 million.
Fulhams biggest problem last season was creating goals and finishing teams off and he has gone about trying to rectify that fact with some shrewd signings. Adding to the bones of the team that he inherited and getting them back to playing football rather than the outdated kick and rush mess that Lawrie Sanchez had woefully tried to install will reap dividends for him and the Fulham faithful. With Johnson and Zamora up front, Bullard, Murphy and Gera pulling the strings in midfield and a steady defence, a comfortable mid-table season is on the cards at Craven Cottage. Good luck to Roy Hodgson, one of only two English managers in the modern era who should have been the England manager but never will. I’m sure Mr Clough doesn’t mind the company, they’ll both agree that Cloughie was the best.