“A good man is just about to take on the Impossible Job.” That was the conclusion of the Daily Telegraph’s Henry Winter in writing about the Football Association’s decision to offer the England football manager’s job to Roy Hodgson.
The reason was made abundantly clear in the coverage in other national papers this morning. As Winter noted, they were declaring Hodgson “a failure before he’s even been appointed.”
A couple of editors registered their surprise – and implied criticism – in front page headlines: “Hod choice for England” (Daily Mirror); “What are the Hods on that?” (The Sun) and “Forget ‘Arry, it’s Roy in the frame for England” (Daily Star).
In the sports pages, the boot really went in. Reminding readers of Hodgson’s brief and unhappy stewardship of Liverpool, the Daily Mail’s main headline said: “Kop flop Roy is FA’s choice.”
The Mirror was critical too: “Oh why, oh why, oh Woy?” This reflected the widespread bafflement that the media’s favourite, Harry Redknapp, had been overlooked.
The general view from almost every football commentator was that Hodgson was nothing more than a safe and uninspiring choice.
Brian Woolnough in the Daily Star predicted that the FA would suffer a backlash from fans. “He is a safe pair of hands rather than the ‘character’ England needed,” he wrote.
The word “safe” can be found in almost every reaction. Daniel Taylor in The Guardian thought him “a safe option, a mid-table manager whose best work in England has been done at two relatively small clubs in Fulham and West Bromwich Albion.”
In The Independent, Musa Okwonga thought Hodgson’s appointment has infuriated people “because it shows us what we really are: we are outsiders, peering up at football’s elite.” So a pragmatic choice makes sense.
Tony Evans, The Times’s football editor, was wholly unimpressed by the appointment of a man “whose bathroom cabinet is bigger than his trophy cabinet.”
It was “a retrograde step,” he wrote and then had the gall to add: “It is unfair to pillory Hodgson.”
In what is clearly a self-fulfilling prohesy he concluded that Hodgson “will become the focus of public criticism very quickly.”
Amid the negativity, it was a pleasure to read the piece by Oliver Holt in the Mirror, “Don’t destroy Roy: why Hodgson deserves better than to be written off before he’s even got the England job”.
He accepted that Hodgson, unlike Redknapp, he lacks the common touch, nor does he have the charisma of Martin O’Neill.
But, wrote Holt, “he is tactically astute, he is a clever coach and… he is well-respected throughout the game…
“What he will need to overcome is the inverted snobbery that will be aimed at him by some because he’s a cerebral manager.”
I found myself nodding at that. As a long-standing West Ham fan, I recall the same reaction to the appointment of Ron Greenwood in 1977. Too cerebral, it was said.
But his record as England manager was far from disastrous: we qualified for the 1982 World Cup – for the first time in 12 years – and though we were eliminated in the second round, we were unbeaten throughout the tournament.
Will cerebral Roy do as well as cerebral Ron? I think he might do better.