Hodgson sheds 'yes man' tag

17 May 2012 03:17

When Roy Hodgson was named as the surprise choice to succeed Fabio Capello as England manager earlier this month, the critics were quick to brand the West Bromwich Albion boss as a "yes man."

Seen as the conservative option ahead of the more adventurous Harry Redknapp, Hodgson was portrayed as a pliable Football Association candidate who would be unlikely to rock the boat.

But in the space of two short weeks, Hodgson has shattered the assumptions about his character, firmly letting his employers -- and players -- know that he is very much his own man.

The 64-year-old confounded expectations by picking John Terry in his squad while consigning Rio Ferdinand to the international wilderness, and then promptly tore up England's carefully crafted pre-tournament plans by cancelling a four-day training camp in Spain.

He also wrong-footed the punditocracy by choosing former Manchester United captain Gary Neville for his backroom team, when most observers had predicted he would in fact seek out Phil Neville instead.

With those bold decisions alone, Hodgson has set the tone for what promises to be an intriguing reign in the hotseat of the "Impossible Job."

Long-time observers of Hodgson will not have been surprised however, saying they reflect the veteran coach's attention to detail.

Hodgson arrived in the England job a little more than a year after one of the lowpoints of his career, his dismissal by Liverpool in January 2011 after only six months in charge at Anfield.

Convinced he had never been given a proper opportunity to make his mark at the club, Hodgson set about rehabilitating his career at West Brom with success, steering the Baggies to a top 10 finish this season.

Prior to that, Hodgson had cut his teeth in Scandinavian football, winning titles in Sweden and Denmark before later guiding unheralded Switzerland to the 1994 World Cup.

His nomadic coaching career has included stints at Inter Milan, Blackburn Rovers as well as positions with Finland and the United Arab Emirates.

He remains the only England manager to have had previous experience of coaching at international level.

Ciriaco Sforza, who played under Hodgson at both Inter and Switzerland, paid tribute to the coach's ability to communicate his tactics.

"Nobody worked so hard right until the last minute before a game like Roy," Sforza told The Independent. "He would train the players for hours until they understood his way of playing.

"He was always straightforward and everyone knew what he had to do. Above all, he was a brilliant tactician.

"Roy had no problem with the big names at Inter. He demanded the same from every player, whether they were a star or a youngster -- a winning mentality and a willingness to give everything."

Despite only being "parachuted" into the England job at relatively short notice, Hodgson is refusing to write off his team's chances in Poland and Ukraine, insisting they have the ability to emulate unfancied Denmark's victory in 1992 and Greece's win in 2004.

"The senior players I've spoken to, who have had one or two tournaments behind them where they've had to come back home to face a lot of criticism because they've been among the favourites and haven't achieved, they would tell you -- yeah we can win," Hodgson revealed.

"The other thing I would say is look at the two classic ones -- the Danes in 1992 and the Greeks in 2004.

"You don't necessarily have to be on paper the best team to win a tournament. You can get by with good team spirit. You can get by with a little bit of luck at the right times.

"You can get by because a referee gives you a goal that you shouldn't have had or vice versa.

"We've got to go there believing we can do a good job. There's only 16 teams there and we're one of the 16. A 16-1 shot -- I'm not a gambler but I'll give it a go."

Source: AFP