The appointment of Roy Hodgson as England’s new manager has attracted plenty of negative reaction.
Some of the disappointment is simply from those who wanted – indeed, expected – Harry Redknapp to be appointed to the role but even amongst those who aren’t particular fans of Redknapp, there’s been a distinct lack of enthusiasm at seeing a man appointed England manager without having ever won a major trophy in English football.
Before even looking at whether or not Roy Hodgson was right to be considered for the role, it’s important to look at the team he’s actually going to manage.
Since winning the World Cup on home soil in 1966, the record of the England national team at major finals has been largely unimpressive.
Semi final losses at Italia 90 and Euro 96 represent the closest that England have come to lifting a second piece of major silverware despite the efforts by some of England’s most popular managers to change that, as well as leading names brought in from overseas.
Glenn Hoddle reached the second round of his one and only tournament in charge of England while his popular successor, Kevin Keegan, failed to lead England out of the group stage of Euro 2000 and a win over an equally poor German side was scant consolation for a thoroughly disappointing campaign in Holland and Belgium.
Sven Goran Eriksson, the first man from overseas to take charge of England, brought with him a wave of optimism following some impressive results during the early stages of his five years in charge. The fact that such results – including the 5-1 win in Germany – were achieved by playing good football only led to increased expectations, although that all fizzled out as tournament after tournament ended in quarter-final elimination.
At least the team had qualified for finals under Eriksson. Steve McClaren’s disastrous spell in charge of England’s involved nothing more than an unsuccessful bid to reach Euro 2008.
McClaren had been one of two or three English managers considered for the job before being appointed on the back of solid year at Middlesbrough and after bringing his 18-month tenure to a sudden end, the FA were quick to replace a relatively inexperienced English manager with a multiple title-winning Italian in their attempts to revive the nation’s footballing fortunes.
That didn’t work too well, either.
For all of the wins in qualifying or friendly matches, Fabio Capello’s sole tournament during his four years in the job saw England struggle to get out of a group containing Slovenia, USA and Algeria. A 1-0 win over Slovenia in the final group game was enough to ensure that England would leapfrog their fellow Europeans into second place and scrape through to the second round – where they were subsequently thumped 4-1 by Germany and put out of their World Cup misery.
So, whilst many sections of the country may find it difficult to get overly excited at seeing Roy Hodgson leading England, it’s fair to say that each person to have had the job before him have failed to get the most out of the highly talented group of players available for selection.
Hodgson doesn’t have quite the luxury of so many top class players, and some of the experienced players still involved are unlikely to be playing international football for too much longer.
However, one thing which should go in his favour is that the outgoing West Brom manager does have the benefit of experience coaching at international level.
In 1992, Switzerland went into the qualifying campaign for the 1994 World Cup as one of the fourth group of seeds, ranked alongside Wales and Northern Ireland. But Hodgson’s team finished runners-up to Italy in the qualifying group and at the expense of both Portugal and Scotland, the Swiss went on to qualify for the finals in America, a tournament which England had failed to reach.
USA ’94 was Switzerland’s first major tournament qualification since 1966, and marked only the second time that Switzerland had progress beyond the first round – the only precedent being a quarter-final appearance in the 1954 Swiss hosted World Cup.
Within 18 months, Switzerland’s World Cup appearance was followed up with a successful qualification for Euro 96 during which Hodgson’s side easily topped a group containing Turkey and 1994 World Cup semi-finalists Sweden.
It was to be the first time in ten attempts that Switzerland’s had reached the finals of the European Championships but Hodgson resigned as soon as the qualification campaign ended in order to manage Inter Milan.
His other international experience came with a spell in charge of Finland who he almost took to the finals of Euro 2008. Despite being amongst the fifth seeds in a group of seven, only three points separated Finland from their first ever appearance at the finals of any major competition.
Roy Hodgson might not have the charm of someone like Harry Redknapp, nor a collection of silverware to rival that of Fabio Cappello. But despite some of the lower moments in his career which many English fans focus on, there have been too many successes in Hodgson’s career to ignore and for which he deserves respect.
Much of the success has been by over-achieving with clubs and national teams who have only modest expectations but with the expectation of the English national team seemingly at its lowest point since the early 1990’s, Hodgson could yet win over many of the doubters.
Men who have been more popular and more decorated have failed to deliver. Now it’s Hodgson’s turn, and every fan in the country should give him the chance he deserves.