England manager Roy Hodgson is the ideal person to root for.
After being unable to break into the Crystal Palace first team from 1965-66, Hodgson played non-league soccer with Tonbridge Angels before moving on to Gravesend & Northfleet. At age 23, he completed his training to become a fully qualified coach. He continued to play non-league football but also served as an assistant manager at Maidstone United as well as later becoming a PE teacher in London.
In 1972, he decided to take the plunge and emigrated to South Africa to play for Ashford Town, supporting himself by teaching on the side.
His first manager job was in Sweden with Halmsted where, in his first year, Hodgson took a side the barely survived relegation the year before and led them to the league title. Hodgson won two titles in Sweden before returning to England as the assistant at Bristol City, where financial ruin cut his time at the club short.
So Hodgson went back to Sweden, where he got a division two side promoted in two years, and then won five consecutive first division titles with Malmo. Hodgson is credited with revolutionizing Swedish football, but he still wasn’t making much money, so he moved to Switzerland where he turned a successful spell with Xamax into the national team job.
In his first international coaching job, Hodgson qualified the Swiss for their first major tournament in 28 years, the 1994 World Cup in the USA where Switzerland made it to the Round of 16.
In 1995, Hodgson finally got a big job when he accepted the task of turning a slumping Inter Milan around. He did that job well too, and Inter President Massimo Morrati said of Hodgson, “He didn’t panic. He was calm, and he made us calm.” Morrati wanted Hodgson to stay at Inter, but he decided to return to England with Blackburn Rovers.
Hodgson’s time at Blackburn was difficult, and he lasted only two years — a time that forever clouded his reputation in England. He then went on to win a title in Denmark and bring the Finish national team to the brink of a major tournament before, in a shock appointment, being named Fulham manager in 2007.
Hodgson worked miracles at Fulham, bringing them from their Premier League deathbed to the Europa League Final. When he was appointed Liverpool coach, the reaction from fans and pundits was mostly negative, and he never got off the ground running on Merseyside. But it makes you wonder – why was Brendan Rodgers given time to rebuild but not Hodgson?
Hodgson then did an unfailingly solid job at West Brom, steadying the club as a Premier League side, and then was finally given the England job.
The FA picked a manager. They knew exactly what they were getting with Hodgson. No fireworks, just hard work. Honest work.
Hodgson’s road to the top of football management was amazing, and his track-record is also as impressive as any other manager in Europe. This is a man who went from teaching school children to support himself to teaching Wayne Rooney. Hodgson is admired across the continent — everywhere, it seems, except England where he is frequently ridiculed.
Hodgson walked into the national team job a month before Euro 2012 and came within a spot-kick of the semi-finals. His team beat Spain and Brazil in friendlies, and navigated a fairly difficult group to make the World Cup. No longer is the England camp a soap opera, but it’s a quietly resolute team.
In private, people say Hodgson is a funny man – relaxed and charming. His players will tell you the same thing. That private persona is the real deal with Hodgson, not the public persona that drives so much of the media’s perception of management these days. Harry Redknapp will know what I’m talking about.
Just don’t be surprised it Hodgson takes England to their best World Cup performance since ’66 in 2014. And if he does, give the man some credit.
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