THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

2 May ~ Not many West Bromwich Albion fans will be so unrealistic as to think that Roy Hodgson should have turned down the England job in order to sign a new contract with the club. In fact, there will be a sense of pride that he is the man the FA wanted. After all, towards the end of the 1990s, Albion bosses tended to either get the sack and drop down the leagues (Alan Buckley, Denis Smith) or quit to manage such domestic giants as QPR (Ray Harford). If you had told us then that we would one day lose our manager to the national team, we would never have believed it.

We will wonder where we go from here, though, because there is little doubt that Hodgson has been Albion's best manager since Ron Atkinson. While Gary Megson, Tony Mowbray and Roberto di Matteo have all earned promotions to the Premier League in the last decade, none has offered convincing proof that they could keep their teams at the top level. Indeed, Megson and Mowbray both suffered immediate relegations.

Hodgson, by contrast, has steered the side to two comfortable mid-table finishes and has mostly radiated assurance while doing it. Even when he looked agitated, such as when banging his head on the dug-out roof in frustration at a poor performance against Everton earlier this season, there was never a sense that he wasn't in control of matters.

Under him, Albion fans have learned not to write off any fixture as a certain defeat. Megson and Mowbray used to appear before the press after surrenders to the likes of Liverpool or Chelsea and talk about how "games against these sides won't decide our fate". Hodgson masterminded wins over them. This season, he even oversaw a victory away to Stoke City, against whom we had won just one of the previous 28 league meetings.

Hodgson is also popular at The Hawthorns because he has maintained, and even built on, the club's reputation for doing things with dignity. Knowing of the unfair treatment he suffered at the hands of a certain section of Liverpool fans during his time at Anfield, Albion supporters felt a particular bond with him when his team won there ten days ago.

This was strengthened in the wake of his post-match press conference. A lesser man might have let slip a hint of self-satisfaction at the result. Hodgson, in his admission that Liverpool had been dominant and his own team fortunate, was gentlemanliness personified.

Yet, for related reasons, we will worry for him when he takes on England. We know that critics will say his work with Albion only confirms that he is an expert at getting results from teams of limited means, while his Liverpool experience suggests he is less effective with players who feel they have little to learn.

Another opinion may be that Hodgson's appointment is evidence of an acceptance at the FA that England are a middle-ranking team, one who need the new coach's trademark drills and rigid organisation if they are to make progress. And, of course, if things do not go well, we will not enjoy seeing him caricatured in the popular press.

That Albion were able to appoint a manager of Hodgson's calibre 15 months ago was a tribute to chairman Jeremy Peace's running of the club. That we can now – finally – claim to be an established Premier League club is a tribute to Hodgson himself.

Peace will not rush the appointment of his successor, but one thing is certain: whoever takes the job will have good foundations on which to build and high standards to live up to. That such names as Chris Hughton and Roberto Martinez are being put forward in the media is simply confirmation of that. James Baxter

Comments (8)
Comment by donedmundo 2012-05-02 12:02:48

Following his record breaking season at Aston Villa I understand that Alex McLeish may soon be a free agent. All the pundits comment that he is 'an excellent manager'. Why not give him a go as your new manager?

Comment by Spadams96 2012-05-02 15:23:15

Roy Hodgson deserves the England job.

Comment by ingoldale 2012-05-02 17:07:42

Another opinion may be that Hodgson's appointment is evidence of an acceptance at the FA that England are a middle-ranking team, one who need the new coach's trademark drills and rigid organisation if they are to make progress.

I tend to agree with this. But, established Premiership club after two consecutive seasons in the top flight? Come on!

Comment by JimDavis 2012-05-02 17:29:48

Any English player who thinks he has nothing to learn should go and take a look at the vast collection of winner’s trophies in the England trophy cabinet.
I do have to wonder about the FA. Given what did happen at Liverpool, allowing the idea to circulate for so long that ‘Arry had a hope. To me it just seems like a couple of Arsenal/West Ham people having a great old laugh at Tottenham’s expense, with a complete disregard of the consequences to ‘ol Woy down the line. I know there is at least beardy fat bloke who writes for one of a newspaper who is not happy about it!

Comment by jameswba 2012-05-02 20:39:53

@donedmundo, think I'll pass on that suggestion, especially given what happened last time WBA appointed a former Blues and Villa manager. Ron Saunders. Didn't work out too well.

@ingoldale, yeah, perhaps got a bit too excited there. But maybe being established is as much about feeling as length of tenure and I do think Albion now feel and look like a top-flight club. You can quote that back at me when we're relegated.

@JimDavis, seems 90% of the media thought they'd got 'Arry the job. What do you reckon the FA could/should have done, though, given how little effect denials often tend to have?

Comment by Alex Anderson 2012-05-03 19:38:53

"A lesser man might have let slip a hint of self-satisfaction at the result. Hodgson, in his admission that Liverpool had been dominant and his own team fortunate, was gentlemanliness personified.". Spot-on. He's a class act, Hodgson and he's leaving a class club. The fact, as James says, that Albion fans are wishing him well only serves to emphasise why the Hawthorns deserved Hodgson. He certainly deserves the England job but has already endured the sort of tabloid treatment which proves how horrible a job it can be and - yeah - it'll be more than just Albion fans feeling for the man if it doesn't work out.

Taking Switzerland to a world cup, taking them to 3rd in the FIFA rankings and leading Inter in the UEFA Cup final - why would the red tops want him in charge when they could have had a guy who can't read, can't work a computer, goes dahn the dogs and is just a right good laugh??!!

Comment by jameswba 2012-05-03 21:11:49

'why would the red tops want him in charge when they could have had a guy who can't read, can't work a computer, goes dahn the dogs and is just a right good laugh??!!'

Why indeed? He'd 've made training a right old lark an' all...

'it'll be more than just Albion fans feeling for the man if it doesn't work out.'

That's my instinct too. In fact, I suspect there'll be plenty feeling more hurt for him than he'll feel himself (if that makes sense). You have to be a special kind of 64 year-old to want to take this on, knowing full well what might be coming your way.

Comment by heedmaster 2012-05-06 20:57:13

At the first sign of a wobble in England's play, he'll be accused of not having played at the highest level, and therefore unable to understand what makes the best players in the world 'tick'. Paul Merson, the intellectual heavyweight of Soccer Saturday, suggested that unless England beat Norway by at least three goals, Hodgson could expect criticism. He may be right, and the beardy fat bloke may well lead that charge.

We're not going to win the Euros, so now is the time to give the younger generation tournament experience. Dispensing with Terry and Gerrard would be a start, but I doubt Hodgson will be that brave.

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