'Roy's drug is coaching' - Hands-on Hodgson an underwhelming but practical choice for England

Experienced and versatile West Brom coach ticks all the right boxes but failed spell with Liverpool raises concerns over ability to handle big names and pressure
By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent

In football circles, Roy Hodgson is regarded as a coach’s coach. His office is the training pitch, where he organises, directs and cajoles. Relentlessly.

“Roy’s drug is coaching,” said one close acquaintance of the 64-year-old. “He doesn’t care much for many aspects of management - dealing with agents, negotiating transfers or the like. For him, it is all about getting the best out of his players.”

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Astute, experienced and extremely intelligent with interests that extend far beyond the narrow parameters of football, Hodgson is never more at home than when stood in a tracksuit with the wind buffeting his hair and drilling players where they should be on the pitch.

Like Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, Hodgson is a tracksuit manager who meticulously plans his sessions, arms himself with a whistle and takes training every day.

Should negotiations with the four-man Football Association panel proceed smoothly, England’s players – who, to a man, had expected their next permanent boss to be Harry Redknapp – can expect a manager in the mould of Terry Venables or Steve McClaren rather than the more distant Sven-Goran Eriksson or Fabio Capello.

Redknapp would have scrutinised events, arms folded, from the sidelines while his assistant coaches took charge of the drills. The more hands-on Hodgson will direct operations himself. He doesn’t tend to demand too much in the way of backroom support.

During a 36-year managerial career, Hodgson’s approach has brought results in Sweden, Finland, Italy, Denmark, the United Arab Emirates and England. Remarkably, in the most successful of his three international posts, he led Switzerland at one point to third in the world rankings.

His greatest skill has been in moulding teams to punch above their weight, most notably in England at Fulham, who he steered to a Europa League final, and West Brom.

But sandwiched in between these creditable achievements was a painful spell at Liverpool, where he angered the fan base with his cautious tactics and underwhelming rhetoric. Results, furthermore, were mostly disastrous and he was sacked with the club lying 13th in the table more than halfway through the season.

At Fulham, Hodgson’s style was conservative with a small ‘c’. He primarily set the team up not to lose matches before trying to win.
Kris Voakes
Goal.com Italian Football Editor

"Hodgson's time at Inter remains best remembered for two disappointments, one on the field and one off it. The crowd pelted the Englishman with coins following the Nerazzurri's Uefa Cup final defeat to Schalke on penalties in 1997, while his decision to sacrifice Roberto Carlos for Alesandro Pistone is still considered one of the club's big transfer errors of the Massimo Moratti years.
"However, he did actually preside over an upturn in fortunes on a general level. A squad short of real talent had struggled in the seasons preceding his arrival, and finishes of seventh and third under his tutelage helped provide the springboard for Luigi Simoni's Scudetto near miss and Uefa Cup triumph in 1998."

Players and supporters bought into this style because it yielded results. Nevertheless, the more expansionist methods of, first Mark Hughes and, to an even greater degree, Martin Jol, has been welcomed by those at Craven Cottage. Fulham fans are hardly pining for him.

The FA’s decision to make Hodgson their top choice has not just surprised a nation, but the man himself. Only last week, he was telling friends that he thought the opportunity to manage England had gone for good.

Urbane, multi-lingual and a deep thinker, the question is whether Hodgson has the skills to manage big names and coax them into reaching their potential while wearing the England shirt.

A smooth operator in Uefa and Fifa technical circles, it is easy to see why he appeals to the FA, given their faith in St George’s Park as a university of English football. Hodgson will be quite at home providing a vision and base for age-group teams.

Speaking earlier this season, Hodgson outlined why the wider England job remit, including the national football centre, suited his own skill-set.

“You don’t want to be employing someone just for nine games a year,” he said. “The effect a manager can have on lots of other areas within a country’s football, is quite enormous. I’m sure the FA with David Bernstein in charge are aware of that.

“I think the job has a lot of other facets to it and could have even more now, with St George’s Park and what’s going on there. If I was the FA chairman that would be something I would be thinking about."

Yet it is the success of the national team that matters. It always is. Improving the under-12s is one thing. Making the senior players the sum of their parts is a different task altogether.

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