Tuesday 20 March 2018

Hodgson's exit excuses a vital part of failing upwards

England head coach Roy Hodgson. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters
England head coach Roy Hodgson. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

According to research carried out by @FinanceFootball, Roy Hodgson is the highest paid manager at Euro 2016. He is getting about €5m a year, which is considerably more than either Vicente del Bosque or Joachim Low, both of whom have won the World Cup, while the survey alleges that Leonid Slutsky, the manager of Russia, is doing it "for free".

Though the respective sizes of these remuneration packages seem to be counter-intuitive, even baffling, they are a reflection of something that is really quite obvious - Roy Hodgson is a genius of the modern world.

To be regarded as recently as 2011 as the worst manager in the history of Liverpool FC, the only one ever to be truly despised by many supporters, and to be now making north of 400k a month in what is supposedly a more prestigious job, you need to be some kind of a genius - but what kind?

The man who brought Christian Poulsen, Paul Konchesky and Joe Cole to Anfield could not be viewed as a giant of the game in purely football terms. But then it is only the hopelessly innocent who still see football management as being primarily about signing brilliant players and organising them in such a way that they will win football matches and maybe even a trophy.

Certainly at the Liverpool to which Roy arrived, with thrilling promises that he would "have them well organised", all that wild idealism had given way to a different kind of management, the management of expectations. Which is of course the lowering of expectations.

And once Roy had declared a scoreless draw at Birmingham City to be a good result for Liverpool, we knew that here was a special talent in the expectation-lowering game. Indeed he succeeded so well at this project, some supporters were seeing the arrival of Raul Meireles as perhaps the start of something big.

So Roy was showing his mettle here, assiduously setting about the task of turning Liverpool into a club which never expects to win away from home. Or even at home, if it comes to that.

Naturally, this would bring him to the attention of the Football Association, which for decades had been cursed by the expectations of the general public, who for some ridiculous reason kept expecting England to do well at major tournaments. There would be no more of that under Roy Hodgson.

To a Liverpool fan it looked as if Roy was "failing upwards" until he got to his preferred destination. But to the executive class at the FA, who are, after all, the sort of people who run the world, Roy's career must have looked like a series of uninterrupted triumphs - including and perhaps especially his time at Liverpool.

He had actual triumphs in places such as Sweden and Denmark, and he had them well organised in Switzerland and the UAE, which is nice, but then doing well in such places is somewhat reminiscent of Peter Jacobson's line about first-round leaders of the Masters, that the slums of Chicago are full of those guys.

But Roy wouldn't be one of those guys, he broke out of the pack of journeymen and made it to then struggling Inter Milan, where without actually winning anything, he "steadied the ship" and "made them calm" and in all likelihood had them well organised. Which conferred on him an air of urbane distinction that sustained him through relegation with Blackburn Rovers and was celebrated during a great run with Fulham, one down for Roy and one up, all round a kind of a pleasing draw - a draw away to Birmingham, if you like.

All the while he was working on an aspect of his CV which is more important than any game of football, doing the hard yards at UEFA and FIFA "technical study groups", whatever they are, this man who was evidently born with a laminated ID card dangling from his neck.

That too would have smoothed his passage through the corporate environs of football, where they have a deep appreciation of the ability to explain why things went wrong as they usually do when people like them are in charge - apparently in his official report Roy concluded that England went out of the 2014 World Cup due mainly to "bad luck".

And they would recognise the work of a consummate "operator" in the selection of an England squad which is "the youngest in Euro 2016". Meaningless though this may be, in terms of challenging for the tournament, it is a really good line to have ready for the exit - and these days that is no small thing, in fact it may be the only thing.

Ah yes, with all these young players the signs are positive going forward, for these guys everything is always going forward. And if they don't quite succeed in the present tense on some football field due to all the "bad luck", they will keep going forward, ideally with Roy still up there on five million.

He has himself well organised.

Sunday Indo Sport

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