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Roy Hodgson: Forty-Four Years a Football Manager

Roy Hodgson

Against the odds, Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace toppled Manchester United in their own backyard last weekend to make it two wins from two this campaign.

Having been among the favourites to go down, it appears there is still plenty of life in 73-year-old Hodgson and his South London squad. His longevity certainly makes you wonder where the endless hunger comes from. A look back at a distinctly unique career path only increases the neutral’s admiration for Hodgson, who by no means took the easy road to success.

Forty-Four Years in Management for Roy Hodgson

Humble Beginnings

A modest 11-year playing career in the defences of England’s lower leagues is all Hodgson can boast on the pitch.

Early retirement brought an early, gutsy voyage into management. A 28-year-old Hodgson was handed his first managerial position at Halmstad, all the way back in 1976. Incredibly, he led the strugglers to a Leicester-esque Swedish Allsvenskan title in his first season. He repeated the feat three years later, telling Palace’s club website: “Having been thrown in as a 28-year-old with many senior players who were older than myself, it is incredible the sort of success I was able to achieve there”.

At Home Abroad

Unbelievably, Roy Hodgson spent 27 of the next 31 years managing overseas. Rare stints in England with Bristol City in 1982 and Blackburn Rovers in 1997 were straddled by spells with clubs and national teams in Scandinavia, Switzerland and the UAE, as well as two stints with European giants Inter Milan.

After three years with the Swiss national team, Hodgson was handed the reigns at the San Siro. “I arrived in October, by when they had already played several games which hadn’t gone very well,” he told The Coaches’ Voice.

Sure enough, he steadied the ship. Steering teams away from trouble has become a hallmark of Hodgson’s CV, particularly in the Premier League.

A group devoid of star names, with the exception of Javier Zanetti, Paul Ince and Roberto Carlos, were taken to a UEFA cup final and two solid league finishes. Despite this, Carlos was an outspoken critic of Hodgson. The Englishman’s tendency to play him on the left-wing instead of left-back became a key motivation for his move to Real Madrid.

An Overdue Homecoming

At the age of 60, Roy was back in the English big time. In his first season, he led Fulham to a famous escape and guided them to seventh the following year. An astonishing Europa League final appearance came in 2010, narrowly losing to Atletico Madrid but pipping old foes Juventus along the way.

Fulham’s fierce overachievement took Hodgson to Liverpool. In a career which had been working up to a job of that stature, it did not quite work out. Admittedly, Liverpool were in the depths of transition, so it was never going to be a walk in the park. Nevertheless, the Kop had chewed him up and spat him out, and it was back to the drawing board.

Seemingly more comfortable in charge of the plucky underdogs, Hodgson subsequently lead West Bromwich Albion to two of their best finishes in recent history. His point was proven. In 2012, five years after his return to the English game, Hodgson was given the England national team job.

Picking up from the dull foundations laid by Fabio Capello, Hodgson’s reign was similarly unspectacular. Three major tournaments all ended with a whimper. Although a four-year reign is nothing to be scoffed at, Hodgson’s visible despair at the sight of England falling behind to Iceland at Euro 2016 summed it all up – a team unable to produce when it really mattered. Still, from Halmstad to Wembley 40 years apart, that’s certainly not bad going.

The Final Chapter for Roy Hodgson

Even at 70, Hodgson was taken on by Crystal Palace after a measly four scoreless games under Frank de Boer. No prizes for guessing what happened next.

By now, Hodgson had seemingly mastered the art of eking every last drop of potential from his squad. The pattern continues to this day, with two early wins suggesting yet another campaign of overachievement to come.

For the majority of his career, Hodgson has walked a scarcely trodden path. Indeed, Graham Potter has done something similar after a rollercoaster eight-year journey at Ostersunds. His exciting Brighton & Hove Albion team certainly seems to be heading in the right direction under his management.

Perhaps there is something to be said about an apprenticeship served in the wilderness. In Hodgson’s case, it fast-tracked him to some of the most coveted jobs around.

In his 74th year of life and the final year of his contract, there is a good chance this will be his last in football. Forty-four years a football manager, Roy Hodgson can look back on his career with great pride as a man who has simply done it all.


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