The self-loathing elements of the British press have had the short and long knives out for England manager Roy Hodgson for well over a year now. It is obvious that large elements of the media did not want Hodgson to get the job over Harry Redknapp. And once he did, he was pillaged for player selection and tactical decisions in a way no English-born manager has been since the end of Alf Ramsey’s tenure.
The media made much of Redknapp’s accomplishments at Tottenham Hotspur. But often forgotten was that Tottenham had finished fifth twice under Martin Jol and then fell off because of the ill-advised decision by Daniel Levy to appoint Juande Ramos and sack Jol. Yet they had a core of talent remaining. Did Redknapp do well with this talent? Yes, without question he did. Did he do better than Hodgson who took a relegation-threatened team, Fulham, to a European final within two seasons? No. Not if you are truly objective can the case be made.
Previously, Hodgson got Inter Milan to a European final. He got Switzerland to a World Cup and into the knock-out stages. He took Finland close to qualifying for the Euros, and they have never qualified for a major tournament before. He was strongly considered for the Germany job, the only foreigner seriously considered for it in recent memory.
What is Redknapp’s resume in comparison? Relegating Southampton? Beginning the process of bankrupting Pompey? Are those fair? Maybe not, but they are on his resume. Those in media who consistently pointed Hodgson’s issues with Blackburn and Liverpool often glossed over Redknapp’s obvious liabilities. You cannot just go out and buy players internationally, and when comparing the two managers’ resumes, the choice was obvious. Hodgson showed at Fulham and West Brom an ability to inherit a struggling team and maximize results almost immediately. Redknapp failed to do that with Southampton and Queens Park Rangers. He had the excuse that they were not his players but Hodgson didn’t need that excuse when thrown into two equally bad situations in the Premier League.
Since getting the job, Hodgson has been attacked relentlessly for producing dour, uninspiring football. These critics constantly harp on how England should be slicker in their passing football and more attack oriented away from home. But the reality is England have come through arguably the toughest qualifying group in UEFA by pragmatically maximizing results and playing to the squad’s strengths. This has come at the same time as Hodgson has blended in critical youth such as Andros Townsend and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into a team that can play well on the break.
Roy Hodgson is a tactically nimble and creative manager. Simply because England don’t set up the way Spain or Germany do does not mean he isn’t innovative. People complain about the style but how can you argue with the results?
Honestly, I don’t see a lot of cracks in this England side. Playing organized and tight as Hodgson insists on playing means England will be competitive in every game next summer in Brazil, regardless of the opposition and irrespective of how stylish that opposition appears to be to members of the press corp. No other national side on the planet has the pace and ability to counter the way England does. Townsend’s development just adds to that, giving England additional cover for Theo Walcott who like so many Arsenal players is injury prone. If England can keep Michael Carrick fit, reaching the World Cup semi-finals will not be out of the question. People’s personal preferences dictate slick football with nice passing. But England can play a different way, some would say “negative,” but I would say different — plus indigenous and progressive in its own way. I believe England will do well next summer in Brazil led by a manager with nothing left to prove to those who are truly objective about the job he has done throughout his career and most recently with England.