LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 03: West Bromwich Albion manager Roy Hodgson speaks with Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp ahead of the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane on January 3, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Buried under the cavalcade of Manchester derby traffic, the FA's move for Roy Hodgson is a stranger story than it seems.
‘Roy’, said FA Chairman David Bernstein, ‘is the only manager we have approached’. Mark Lawrenson is skeptical; for him the only plausible explanation is that SOMEONE at SOMETIME (SOMEWHERE, probably) has had a word with Harry. And Harry has said no. Match of the Day’s talking double-sweep comb-over might be onto something here. Not exactly what he thinks, though. More plugged in members of the media like proper journalist Danny Taylor (for the Guardian) have reported Harry Redknapp as ‘aghast’ at having been overlooked. If accurate, reports of ‘Arry’s ire seem to rule out Lawro’s claims for a behind closed doors no deal.
There’s still something up, though. First, it’s odd that the news should be held back until Redknapp’s Tottenham finally win a game, only their second in 10 games. That run of ‘disastrous’ (Redknapp) form was as good an argument against Harry’s coronation as many, 10 games being an entire international season. Second, why hold the news until the eve of the biggest game of the season? To bury it, probably.
When local newspapers like the Manchester Evening News have 16 page sports pullouts covering the ‘Eyes of the world on Manchester’ derby, an unglamorous managerial appointment is more subterfuge than story. Newspapers and other media outlets have been preparing for this cavalcade of hits for almost as long as the Club England committee have vacillated over their managerial appointment. That the two should coincide is either horrendous planning on the part of the FA (and let’s not, given the august history of that auspicious organisation, rule that out) or a deliberate device to deflect attention from a typically bizarre recruitment process. Again given the august history of this auspicious organiation, it seems reasonable to suspect the latter.
It really has been bizarre.
Given the dialectical nature of England’s managerial cycle – international name foreigner/domestic name Englishman – there were only ever two viable candidates for the job: Hodgson and Redknapp. Of these two, Hodgson with three nations worth of international managerial experience and two major championship qualifications (with Switzerland) has the better CV. He has also done high-pressure, goldfish bowl type jobs before with Inter (pass, probably) and Liverpool (mitigated failure). Redknapp by comparison, has had a parochial managerial career confined to the South England. On the other hand, as easy as it is to dismiss Redknapp as the lazy preference of a jingoistic and sycophantic media he was also the players’ preference and, given the parachute nature of the appointment, that is no little commendation.
Football, never more so than when played by England, is a game of intangibles. Personality, as well as experience, matters. There is more to coaching than relentlessly drilling positional acumen into players on the training ground; hugs have a place there too. Media savvy, which Hodgson’s time at Liverpool suggested, profoundly, he lacks, is valuable too.
Hodgson represents the sensible choice; he ticks all the boxes. Strangely, given his perpetual heir apparent status, Redknapp was something of an outside of the box candidate. Hodgson has the tangibles covered, Redknapp operates amidst intangibles.
None of which is to say that the FA has got the appointment wrong; rather, it shows the limited aspect of their ‘search’. To use an old cliché, football is not played on paper but the FA have made the paper appointment. Hodgson seems to have CV-ed his way directly into the job; why not judge both candidates according to their own merits and give Redknapp the chance to chat his way in?
There really is no answer. It is strange. Typically strange. But on Manc Monday, who cares?