Hodgson Already Under Scrutiny

So far so good: Roy Hodgson’s been in charge of England for a week and he’s not lost a game yet.

Rather than trying to jump onto the various bandwagons that were being dragged around in the wake of last weekend’s appointment, I thought it might be better to wait a week before giving a more considered opinion about the decision. One thing to clarify immediately: I won’t be making fun of the way the new manager talks.

Despite being at the cynical end of England fandom (I grew up in the Home Counties in the 1970s and my Dad was Welsh), I don’t have any problems with Roy Hodgson at all. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that he’s the latest of a long line of England coaches that goes all the way back to Walter Winterbottom (if you’re not sure who he was, try Wikipedia), through Sir Alf Ramsey (if you’re not sure who he was, you have the wrong site) and more recently Ron Greenwood and Bobby Robson.

Hodgson’s appointment is something of a return to form for the FA. The key difference is that the new manager combines the old school values with knowledge and experience of managing outside the UK at both national and international level. That’s rare in English football: one of the drawbacks of having such an overinflated and overhyped competition such as the Premier League is that none of our top players go abroad any longer. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any players or coaches in France, Germany, Spain or Italy. Ironically enough – especially as Hodgson’s managerial career began in Sweden – I can think of a couple of reasonably successful British coaches in Scandinavia.

The appointment also seems to be a deliberate reaction against some of the novelty appointments that have been made over the past couple of decades. Capello, Eriksson, Hoddle and McClaren all shared a cosmopolitan profile with Hodgson, although the first two suffered from the apparently fatal malady of not being English, Hoddle was ‘a bit of a nutter’ and McClaren might have made a better England manager in ten years time.

Which brings me round to the last time the FA appointed a ‘fan favourite’. Kevin Keegan was an absolute disaster and there’s absolutely no evidence to show that Harry Redknapp wouldn’t have been the same. Strangely enough, Redknapp’s reliance on his bumpkin image to clear his name in court earlier this year might have affected the perception of him by any prospective employers: his apparent inability to perform simple tasks might have helped Redknapp clear his name and endeared him to aficionados of ‘Carry On’ films or the works of Norman Wisdom (‘Strike a light, lads, we’ve only gorn an’ missed the coach to the stadium!’) , but won’t have given any of the blazers at the FA any confidence in his ability to manage the England team.

In fact, the only manager to have combined fan approval with the type of profile the FA seems to think is important was Terry Venables, who oversaw the most successful tournament campaign in the last two decades  – yes, sixteen years ago. As for some of the arguments that compared Redknapp to Brian Clough in so far as they were both who the ‘fans’ wanted for the job, it needs to be stressed repeatedly that Clough won the old League Championship as a manager when he was 38. If you want to compare Clough with anyone, try Jose Mourinho. Brash, outspoken, successful.

Back to the tournament at hand now: Hodgson has to prepare for a couple of friendlies in the next few weeks before Euro 2012 starts and although he’s guaranteed a place for Wayne Rooney in the squad that’s going to Eastern Europe, it’s the centre of defence that’s the biggest problem. Regardless of the fact that the forthcoming tournament could be the last one that both Rio Ferdinand and John Terry play in, there’s also the issue of Terry’s apparent inability to behave like an adult who is also a professional sportsman. The character defects of the Chelsea captain are both a.) glaringly obvious and b.) have a tendency to get him into trouble both on and off the pitch: basically he thinks he can get away with doing whatever he likes. Hodgson’s first job may have to tell Terry that he won’t be able to do that for England any longer: or possibly ever again.

I’ll be posting some more thoughts as the tournament approaches, but I must admit that I’m really intrigued to see how Roy Hodgson is going to do this summer. Although the ‘defeated in the quarter finals by the eventual winners’ scenario usually happens regardless of who the manager is, the rampant jingoism, crass newspaper headlines and pubs filled with ‘casual’ fans who have to be told which team is which may not be as prevalent as they might have been if Harry Redknapp had got the job. However, the sense of anger and disappointment if England fail badly in Poland and Ukraine might be greater with Hodgson in charge rather than Redknapp: we’ll see.

Roy Hodgson In The Frame For The Manager’s Job

Calm down, calm down…

Yesterday the news broke that Roy Hodgson had been approached by the FA regarding the England job: the overall reaction appears to be split, ranging from outrage from White Van Man to conditional support from various corners of the media. Hodgson’s interview is taking place this afternoon but it’ll be interesting to see how quickly a decision is made before the Euro 2012 betting begins: the situation may be closer to being resolved than it was last week but I still think there’s some mileage left in this story.

We’ve always tried to follow the ‘best man for the job’ line here: I’m on record as having said that Harry Redknapp is the right man for the England position, but it’s not my decision to make and if Roy Hodgson is appointed then I’m not going to complain as his CV is very impressive. I don’t know either man personally – and let’s face it, how many of us do – so if anyone’s expecting any pro-Redknapp or anti-Hodgson rants here, then you’re probably better off wading through the hilarious stuff posted on various message boards.

That’s not going to stop me from some speculation though. It’s interesting that in recent interviews on Radio 5 that both Graham Taylor and Henry Winter have mentioned the role that the manager would have at the National Football Centre in Burton: the perception seems to be that although Hodgson would relish this role, it might be a bit too far for Redknapp in terms of distance, desire and ability. One more thing that needs to be cleared up: Hodgson is five months older than Redknapp, not ten years.

Another issue is on field performance. Although Spurs beat Blackburn yesterday, Tottenham have had an incredibly disappointing end to their season and although that’s not a reason to write off Harry Redknapp’s ability as a manager per se Spurs’ collapse couldn’t have come at a worse time.

However, it’s important to remember that this time last season Roy Hodgson had been written off by Liverpool fans for pretty much the same reason: following the less than stellar second coming of Kenny Dalglish in the role of Anfield Messiah, it’s now accepted that Hodgson did a decent at a dysfunctional club that’s been relying on past glories as a guarantee for future successes for far too long. Oh wait a minute…that sounds like he’s exactly the right man for the England job.

If there’s a moral to this particular story, it’s probably that there’s no point in wasting your money at the bookies on anything to do with England. ‘Arry was available to back at 1/3 as late as yesterday lunchtime: he’s now out to 4/1 with the firms that haven’t suspended betting on that particular market.

Managerial Uncertainty Makes England’s Euro 2012 Odds Look Unappealing

With only a few weeks left to go in the domestic football season, it’s only a couple of months until the start of Euro 2012 and it’s officially time to start our coverage. Who better to kick it off that regular contributor Richard Smith: Richard takes a look at some of the prices on offer for an English success in the tournament…and rapidly comes to the same conclusion as any sane bettor would.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding who will be the manager of the Englandteam at Euro 2012,  bookmakers are getting into full swing by offering a host of betting markets on how theEnglandteam and players will fare at the European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine.

In the betting to win Euro 2012 outright,England are rated as the fourth favourites with most major bookies offering just 9/1. This price is influenced by the weight of the “patriotic pound” that will either have already been wagered or in anticipation from the betting companies but when both France and Italy are priced at 14/1, it is difficult to rate England as “value” and 9/1 is unappealing but nonetheless, loyal fans of the Three Lions will invariably back the team to win the tournament with nothing more than blind faith as the reason.

If England qualify from Group D, a Quarter Final match against either Spain or Italy is likely to await them and if it is Spain, then prospects of progressing really do look bleak.

Spain are expected to win Group C, so to ensure a last eight tie against the runner up in Group C, which is most likely to be Italy, then England will need to win Group D. Should this be the case there is no guarantee that England could or even should defeat Italy, a game in which the Italians would likely be favourites to win but would be considered more “winnable” than if having to face Spain.

In all honesty, any punter thinking with their head would probably resist from backing the Three Lions in the Outright win market, especially with no permanent England manager yet appointed which must impact on preparations, potential squad selection, tactics and opponent analysis . However, if you’re betting with your heart, it’ll be a question of how much to put on England in the hope that Harry Redknapp is appointed at the end of the season and the moral boost from that would be enough to result in a fairytale ending!

Englandto be eliminated at the Quarter Final Stage at odds of 13/8 is proabbly the most likely outcome at this stage!

As far as Group D is concerned, most pundits are predicting an England and France one-two. England are the narrow 13/8 favourites to win the group with France a 7/4 chance, co-hosts Ukraine come next at 9/2 while underdogs Sweden are 11/2.

The key to the Group probably lies in the opening game between England and France on 11th June. France have been transformed under new Head Coach Laurent Blanc, losing only twice in the twenty matches he has been at the helm and one of those was his very first game in charge when he fielded a weakened team following the fallout and suspensions on the back of the 2010 World Cup debacle. They qualified comfortably from their Euro2012 Qualification Group losing just once in their ten qualification games and have since secured “friendly” wins over the USA and more impressively Germany. The French clearly will be no pushover!

England of course qualified unbeaten from their Group and have secured recent wins over Sweden and Spain. However, with Fabio Capello no longer in charge, it has left a number of doubts surrounding the team at a critical time and with no manager yet appointed and the France game fast approaching, the situation looks bleak.

Backing England to top Group D therefore now looks a little dangerous, France have the momentum and as such, could get the better of England in the Group D opener, which would leave England with two difficult remaining games against Ukraine and Sweden but ones where they should be good enough to get the results to qualify in second spot, whoever is selecting the team and tactics! Therefore, a France to finish top, England runners up straight forecast bet at 7/2 looks the best pick of the group markets involving England.

A lot can happen between now and England’s opening game in Donetsk but as it stands, without a permanent manager it is difficult to be optimistic. Stuart Pearce is more than capable of leading the troops but how far in to battle can he take them? It will certainly be an interesting few weeks in between the end of the domestic season and start of the Euros and an even more interesting couple of weeks in Poland and the Ukraine!

Friendlies? Meh.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but I’m not a big fan of friendlies. Tonight’s game against the Dutch is basically an excuse to sell the new replica shirts that both teams will be wearing. Stuart Pearce may or may not be the next England manager, I doubt that many of the squad will actually make the final 23 for the European Championships and for that reason I’m determined to write less than 100 words about the game.

Looks like I managed that with a few to spare!

State Of Leadership – Who Should Wear The Prestigious Armband At Euro 2012?

With the second biggest question in English football looming overhead Discount Football Kits gives its take on the situation to 11lions.co.uk.

Whomever gets the nod for the next England manager, one of their first big decisions is going to be directly tied in with the departure of Fabio Capello. With the FA sticking to its guns that John Terry cannot captain his country while awaiting trial for an alleged on-the-pitch criminal offence, picking a new England captain become a priority in the run-up to the European Championships.

If fan polls are anything to go by, the public believes it’s a three horse race. The most cited candidate by supporters in a Guardian poll was Steven Gerrard. Supporters claim he’s a proven leader both at club and international level with both the experience and ability to be captain. There’s also a great argument that Gerrard leading them team would not only be an inspiration to the other players, but could even up Gerrard’s own game as he thrived on the pressure.

It’s also notable that Wayne Rooney has backed Gerrard as a candidate, and when you consider the bitter Man Utd-Liverpool rivalry, you can be sure Gerrard has the respect of his countrymen. The big drawback however is his reputation for aggressiveness both on and off the pitch: while it’s important to remember he was found innocent of all accusations, his courtroom appearances could be an issue given the context of the vacancy.

If the new boss is looking for a safer choice, Scott Parker could be the way to go. At 31, he’s developed the maturity and respect that’s required to be an effective captain. There’s also a case that his all-rounder style means he’s likely to always be close to the action, making it easier for him to take a lead role throughout the game. The main knock against Parker is that he is a relative latecomer to the senior national team and it could be curious to have a man with just a handful of caps captain the country.

The third main option is Joe Hart, who’s got the public backing of both James Milner and Gareth Barry. While he’s relatively young, the logic seems to be that he looks set to be a constant in the side for years to come, meaning he could bring stability to the role.

Wayne Rooney heads up the rest of the field and has openly said he’d relish the role, though it’s hard to see how somebody with a reputation for hot-headedness on the pitch could take over in the current circumstances. The rest of the field looks to be slim pickings assuming the new manager wants a captain who’s a safe bet for being both fit and in form for the duration of the tournament.

Of course, there’s another twist on the debate, which is to ask whether selecting a captain is really a worthwhile task in the first place. There’s a growing call for the FA to adopt the system that’s common in Italy by which the captain’s armband is automatically worn by the most senior player in the team. That would certainly remove a headache and allow the manager to concentrate on other matters without distraction.

It’s Beginning To Look Like The End Of An Era

Well, it’s two weeks since Fab resigned 19 months later than he should have done and it’s finally time for me to pick up my virtual pen and appraise the current situation.

Personally, I think Capello should have gone after the shambles of the World Cup in South Africa. If you’d said in July 2010 that he wouldn’t have been in charge for Euro 2012, I don’ t think many people would have disagreed with you: arguably the bigger surprise is that he was still in charge less than six months before the tournament started.

The big problem the FA faces with his abrupt departure is whether the process of finding a new manager should be begun immediately or after the European Championships.  Stuart Pearce will be in charge for the friendly against the Netherlands next week but the bookies make the loveable but dysgraphic Cockney dog walker Harry Redknapp the favourite for the job – in fact, if Redknapp’s odds were any shorter it’d be worth betting against him getting the job.

However, despite being the people’s choice there are some issues surrounding Redknapp. He’s only won one major domestic honour (the FA Cup with Portsmouth four years ago – and they beat a Championship side to do it) and – if as seems likely – he has to fulfill his obligations to Spurs before he leaves them, there’s the prospect that he might only have twelve days in which to familiarise himself with the job. Spurs’ last game is scheduled for May 13th: England’s first warm up for the Euros is against Norway on May 25th.

The main issue that seems to have finally exhausted Capello’s patience is the decision by the FA to strip John Terry of the captaincy of the England team. Regardless of what you think of the decision or why it was made, it seems to have been the catalyst for Capello’s resignation – presumably because he thought he was the only authority who could remove the honour from Terry. It looked likely that the former captain would travel to the Euros in some capacity (although probably not in the seat next to Rio Ferdinand), but following today’s news that the Chelsea defender will be out for two months it looks as if Terry might miss what looks increasingly like his international swansong: he’ll be 32 in December.

It seems unlikely, but with Capello gone, Terry a possible doubt and Rooney missing the first two games this summer due to that bloody stupid red card he picked up in Macedonia, fan expectations could be more realistic for this tournament than they have been for previous ones. England are currently fourth favourites behind Spain, Germany and Holland which looks about right – until you remember that the previous winners have never successfully defended the trophy and neither ourselves nor the Dutch have ever won it.

So if ‘Arry is as canny as most people seem to think he is, I’d not be surprised if the following scenario occurs:

He stays at Spurs until the end of the season, with a big Cockney farewell knees up at White Hart Lane (the last game of the season is against Fulham). Harry then goes straight into the England job and manages to get through the group stages before the customary knock out by the eventual winners – at which point he’s largely absolved for any blame because he’s hardly had any time in the position. So his first real task will be qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil: Redknapp may be secretly hoping that John Terry may have announced his international retirement at that point.

We’ll see…

Capello Resigns

More to follow (probably tomorrow at this rate), but following a meeting with David Bernstein et al, Fabio Capello has resigned as England manager.

Hardly a surprise given some of the recent nonsense that’s surrounding the England team but resigning four months before a major tournament is…well, I know what I think. And if you stay tuned, when I’ve calmed down then you’ll be able to read it.

Capello’s Striker Dilemma Ahead Of Euro 2012

If you’ve come here looking for our take on whether or not John Terry should have been stripped of the England captaincy or not or whether Fabio Capello should leave the England job now, then you might be a bit disappointed. All I’m going to say is that France have a terrific group of young strikers and to be honest,  right now (a freezing cold afternoon in February) it doesn’t matter who the manager is.

Although we’re at the end of the Capello years, he’s still getting paid a decent wage and he’s got some thinking to do before the summer. Guest blogger Richard Smith takes a look at both the Terry issue and an area that always seems to be problematic for the team before major competitions.

As Euro 2012 approaches the England problems seem just on the verge of emerging. Firstly the Wayne Rooney ban which has cost England his services in for the opening two fixtures has been followed by the crass FA decision to remove the captaincy from John Terry.

In some respects, England are lucky that Rooney’s ban was not the original three matches but nonetheless, the absence of the Man Utd striker for two games is bad enough and makes life very difficult to replace him.

As far as the Terry situation is concerned, then the FA have done him nor the national team any favours by going above Fabio Capello’s head and removing him as team captain, due presumably to his impending court case where he has been accused of racism towards Anton Ferdinand. That case is not due to be heard until after Euro 2012 and whilst the full and due process of law is running its course, Terry remains innocent until proven guilty. This is of course unless you are the FA who clearly sees the case as a cut and dry affair and that Terry must be guilty as charged. It is a position that is seen as outrageous by most in football and one that proves if nothing else that the FA are no friends of the individual footballer nor respecters of the England fans nor it seems the due process of law as their action has made Terry look guilty even though he is pleading the opposite.

At least it seems that Terry will be able to wear the Three Lions shirt in Poland and the Ukraine which will be very important for team continuity albeit if you believe what you read in the papers this may not be the case! It is almost a prerequisite that the England preparations prior to a major tournament are disrupted and with five months before the tournament kicks off, it would appear the pantomime has already begun.

Back to team matters, there is already much debate as to who Capello should select as the four for Euro 2012 and with Rooney a definite pick, the other three places are up for grabs.

Darren Bent of Aston Villa is probably the man who holds sway at the moment but his good form of last season has not been so evident this term as his Villa team struggle in mid-division of the Premier League. Bent has scored nine times in the Premier League and managed three England goals during Euro 2012 Qualification.

Jermaine Defoe has been a regular squad member for the last few seasons, but he is struggling to establish himself in the first team at Spurs this season and hasn’t been on the scoresheet for England since his hat trick against Bulgaria in September 2010.

Emerging talent comes in the form of Danny Welbeck of Manchester United and Daniel Sturridge of Chelsea but neither have had a long enough run in the national team to establish themselves and may be considered by Capello as too inexperienced to take. Bent’s team mate at Aston Villa, Gabi Agbonlahor is another player who is just falling short of international recognition and now at the age of 25 one feels his best chances are gone despite him being one of the very quickest players around. Bobby Zamora now of QPR has been given a couple of chances but he is a player who would be more of a last resort than a certainty and at 31 he has seen better days too.

This does not leave Capello very much left to choose from, Andy Carroll of Liverpool showed signs under Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool that he is beginning to mature but is facing mounting criticism for his lack of goals. If the £35m man can continue in that vein as well as find the net a few times before the season ends, then he could make a late run for the squad but as it stands currently, the four strikers would almost certainly comprise of Rooney, Bent, Defoe and Sturridge but with Rooney out for the first two games, it’s safe to say none of the England contingent will be in the reckoning for the Euro 2012 Golden Boot and who starts upfront against France on Monday 11th June is still very much anyone’s guess.

We should have a better idea when England take on the Netherlands at Wembley on 29thFebruary when it will make a refreshing change for football to dominate the back page, let’s just hope it’s positive column inches!