Roy Hodgson is a dead man walking already.
Look at the photos of him being driven to Wembley in the past couple of days and you’ll see a childlike gleam of excitement in his eyes. It’s as if he couldn’t believe that his day would come, yet he’s so delighted that it is. “Me, the manager of England!” he seems to be saying to himself.
But that seemed to have gone already by yesterday’s first press conference, where the predictable questions began. Why wasn’t he Harry Redknapp? Why wasn’t he Harry Redknapp? And why wasn’t he Harry Redknapp?
Never underestimate a wounded sportswriter. These people are valued by the knowledge and contacts they have, and they were all blindsided by the FA’s decision to go for Hodgson instead of Redknapp. It left them looking like the clueless bunch of sheep they really are, and they didn’t like it.
No-one gave them the steer they wanted, so they behaved as a pack, telling their editors that they had the inside info and they knew what the decision would be. There was only one obvious choice – Harry Redknapp, the People’s Favourite, England’s Rosie 47, with his deflated whoopee cushion face, a man who would have needed a half-rolled-down car window to be brought to all press conferences to add that authentic touch.
They were wrong, and now they look stupid. Hodgson will pay the price for not being their chosen candidate.
And so it began. There were four questions about Redknapp at the press conference, though no-one asked the one that really mattered: Why on earth didn’t you pick the person we told you to? Over the past few days, Redknapp has been elevated to great status, to the level of Brian Clough, a man who won the European Cup twice (with players he could afford, it might be noted), and should have gone to the UEFA cup final as well, but for a bribed referee.
Well, Redknapp’s not that good, but he’s not that bad either. It was probably a close decision. Hodgson hasn’t won a cabinet full of trophies during his managerial career either, but it was probably his experience in tournament football that tipped the vote his way.
The first whispers of dissent from Hodgson’s camp will be seen as evidence that the FA got it wrong, rather than the more unpalatable possibility that this generation of players are a bunch of pampered infants who don’t care for the England shirt as much as they do for the fame and glory of the Premiership. The journos will have to work with the players when Hodgson is gone, after all; they need to keep them on side.
We know it already, those of us who’ve seen England through thin and thin these past few years of trophyless despair. We try and back our managers, our hope that they might provide that elusive spark, but we know, sooner or later, there will come the time when they say goodbye and hand the baton de merde over to a new candidate.
For what it’s worth, I’d like to see Hodgson succeed, just as I wanted Capello to succeed, and McClaren, and all the others. I think he has a better chance than most, and was probably the right choice. But what do I know?
The hope rises again, but the knives are already being sharpened.