Oh, to be Roy Hodgson Today
Roy Hodgson has his work cut out for him. Isn’t that the understatement of the year.
When Hodgson was plucked from West Brom, who were rightly very sorry to see the man who brought them from the relative obscurity to their best season in well over 30 years, it wasn’t without much criticism. On the other hand, isn’t that the nature of being England’s manager? The job is as much about coaching footballers, assuring the best team available is on the pitch at the exact right times, as it is about being a combination of circus performer and Freudian psychotherapist. Let’s hope he can be a lion (rather, three lions) tamer with some degree of success, for his own good.
Hodgson’s position as Manager of England’s men’s national team was met with some hostility, not because he doesn’t have the experience, but because there was another who many felt was all but a lock to assume the role – “Dirty” Harry Redknapp. Sorry, couldn’t let that go. The Spurs boss has recently admitted he would have relished the opportunity, but was never approached by the FA. When Fabio Capello announced his resignation only hours before Redknapp’s acquittal, many football fans called for his immediate appointment. Even Harry himself publicly declared his interest. Whether the FA felt there were too many uncertainties about him, or they wanted to avoid unwanted negative press (yeah, cause they wouldn’t have that regardless of who the manager is) they were safer in choosing Hodgson.
On the eve of battle with rivals from France, Hodgson has several important decisions that will shape this tournament. The problem is that no matter what he chooses, he will garner his fair share of critics. First, while not a decision and more of an issue, this slight, or perceived slight, of Rio Ferdinand won’t seem to go away. The former England captain has 81 caps for the national team, yet has not figured into Hodgson’s plan for the Euros. Ferdinand has made no attempt at hiding the fact that he is disappointed, and I can’t really blame him. Even as Cahill received the news that he would have to forego the Euros due to injury (more on that later), Ferdinand was still not given the call. Hodgson basically explains this by saying his respect for Ferdinand is as a starter, and not a bench player to come on in injury situations. Please, that is just asinine. Why would you want to make that decision without talking with the player first? Basically, if England’s defence is exposed, which is entirely possible as I scan who I perceive as the starting XI, Roy is setting himself us as a huge fall-guy. Forgive him, he knows now what he does.
If that were the only issue it would be simple, but not so. As has been reported by every footy fan, newspaper, magazine, blog, vlog, glog (I have no idea what a glog is, but I’m sure there is one), England faces several key injuries heading into tomorrow’s tilt. Three stand out as particularly troublesome; Frank Lampard, Gary Cahill and Gareth Barry. Basically, the middle of the field is all but obliterated (Okay, I’m being a wee bit melodramatic). With Cahill out, and replaced by Martin Kelly, England loses an important centre back, perhaps the most talented, who would have been better able to contest the strong French attack. I shudder to imagine tomorrow’s onslaught. Lampard brings a heap of international experience, and like him or not, an attacking mid is a nice thing. Finally, Gareth Barry’s absence as a holding mid will be missed also, whether you like him or not – which I assume is the latter.
Which brings us to our attack. With Rooney missing the first two contests because of a no-no in past competition, who is best suited to fill the void? Hodgson has three choices; Welbeck, Carroll, and Defoe. We know Defoe is the least likely to open up vs France, which leaves us with Welbeck and Carroll. I would be quite surprised if Welbeck didn’t get the nod. Either way, the squad needs the ability and assertive play of Rooney if it hopes to go deep in this tournament.
It’s not easy being England’s manager. Kudos for Roy trying to downplay what must be the height of anxiety. While I am merely a football drone watching from abroad, I certainly don’t need a magnifying glass to know that Roy Hodgson is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t.
…until tomorrow, lads.