Roy Hodgson: Diamond In The Rough
Over the last decade or so, the debate on English managers has been sparked off by every period of a vacant English hot seat.
In 2000, when Sven-Goran Eriksson was appointed, the public wanted to know where all the great up-and-coming Englishmen were. Six years later, the FA, bowing to media pressure after courting and being turned down by Luiz Felipe Scolari, looked to the "best Englishman for the job," Steve McClaren, whose Middlesbrough side had just been crushed by Sevilla 4-0 in the UEFA Cup Final.
The media, and the public, were crying out for an English manager with European honours and a proven track record to take control of their team. Little did any of them know that there was one waiting in Finland.
In 1976, Roy Hodgson began his first managerial job at Halmstad BK in the Swedish Allsvenskan league. The year before he took over, Halmstad had been left flirting with relegation, only surviving on goal difference.
In his very first season in charge, however, Hodgson took the team tipped to go down and surprised the whole of Sweden by winning the league for the first time in the club's history. He then did it again in 1979.
In 1983 he left after a short period at Bristol City to return to Sweden and manage Orebro SK, who narrowly missed out on promotion to the top flight two years running. From there he joined Malmo FF, and from 1985 to 1990 won five successive league titles, two Swedish Championships, and two Swedish Cups.
When Hodgson took the helm of the Swiss national team in 1992, the country had not qualified for a major tournament since 1960. He led them to qualify for the World Cup in 1994, losing only one game along the road to the tournament (in a group that contained Italy and Portugal) and qualifying for the last 16 as runners-up in a group that included hosts the USA, as well as Colombia. They eventually lost to Spain in the second round.
He then guided Switzerland with ease to Euro '96 in England but left to join Inter Milan once qualification had been secured.
The Inter Milan side he joined was one suffering the worst period in its recent history. In a league dominated by rivals AC Milan, as well as Juventus, Inter had struggled to keep the pace during the 1990s, with an impatient chairman and a difficult set of players. Hodgson worked there for two years, reaching the UEFA Cup Final in 1997, which was lost on penalties to Schalke 04 in what would be the last ever two-leg European final.
Following short spells at Blackburn and Grasshopper Zurich, Hodgson moved to Danish side FC Copenhagen in 2000, where he won the Superliga.
Further international experience followed with the United Arab Emirates and Finland, with the latter narrowly missing out on Euro 2008 qualification, but nevertheless having a very respectable qualification campaign, finishing fourth in their group.
Then, on Dec. 28, 2007, Hodgson took the job at Fulham FC, a team on the brink of relegation. A run of results kept them up in 2008, and this season they currently lie in seventh place in the league, having beaten champions Manchester United along the way.
So essentially, here is an Englishman with a proven international and club record. He was many people's contender for Manager of the Season last year for keeping Fulham up, and this year for their excellent league position.
Maybe now his name will finally come up in the papers when the English national manager debate starts up again.
But then, I'm sure Fulham fans want to see the man from Croydon going nowhere.
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