Hodgson and England

The FA has dramatically appointed Roy Hodgson as England's new coach. Quite correctly, too, in my own view. For me, Roy should have had the job back in 1994, immediately after a World Cup in which he'd so splendidly taken his unfancied Swiss team, drawing with and beating Italy en-route, in the qualifiers. Alas, he didn't get appointed. Over to Brian Glanville.

Could Roy Hodgson become the best England manager since Alf Ramsey? Come to think of it, the only good England manager since Ramsey. The role was established only in 1946, in the teeth of sullen opposition from leading club directors, fearing it would drain authority from their own committee of international selectors. In the end a farcical compromise was reached. A manager would indeed be installed, but the selection committee would remain in being and would choose the teams!

Thus Walter Winterbottom, the first incumbent, took the job, figuratively, with a ball and chain around his leg.

A system which notionally at least would endure till he departed 16 long years later in 1962. When Alf Ramsey, actually a second choice — Jimmy Adamson the Burnley skipper having turned down the job — insisted that he and he alone would pick the teams. The committee, however, to his contempt and irritation, continued to exist as the senior international committee, with privileges but no apparent function. Ramsey once bluntly told its members on an England tour (and they never forgot it) that for his part, he'd rather have a couple of extra players than themselves, but at least their presence enabled him to avoid official receptions.

That Winterbottom should have remained in office for those sixteen years seems incredible with hindsight. I knew him well, travelled the world with him and his teams, and liked him greatly. But that he should survive the utter humiliation of two crushing defeats by Hungary, 6-3 at Wembley in November 1953, 7-1 in Budapest the following May, passed understanding. He kept his place because he was the protégé of the all powerful Football Association secretary Sir Stanley Rous. And in fact by the time it came to the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden, we of the press well knew that Walter was picking the teams with the selection committee simply rubberstamping them.

There was no doubt that Walter was altogether too academic a figure to make true contact with his players though the fashionable sneer, not least among seasoned internationals, that he had never played the game at any good level was baseless. In fact he was an accomplished centre-half who played as first choice for Manchester United up to the Second World War. During which he was a guest defender for Chelsea and once even an England reserve.

Quite unknown though not to me as a young journalist working in Rome was that in May 1955 at the Qurinale Hotel there, Rous offered the role to the then Roma manager, the Liverpudlian, Jesse Carver, in my presence. Evidently Rous felt that I was of such small account that he need take no heed of me and in fact I kept the secret for many years to come. “It's about time we brought Walter back into the office, “Rous said. And Walter had always insisted that his job as Director of Coaching was more important than managing England!

After the disasters of the Capello era, when £6 million a year was effectively squandered in his second spell, because the ineffable David Richards, the FA panjandrum, insisted on deleting the clause whereby either Capello or the FA could end the contract after the 2010 World Cup, the red hot press and public favourite for the job was Harry Redknapp, the manager of a Tottenham team which, till recent weeks, had been flying high in the Premiership and had previously excelled in the European Champions League. Harry had profitable — in every way — years previously at West Ham, where once he had been an unexceptional outside right and Portsmouth with whom he had won the FA Cup.

A few months ago, he had survived a criminal prosecution for the alleged evasion of income tax. It transpired that he had paid a large sum of money — in the name of his dog! — into an account in the tax haven of Monaco. Things looked black for him indeed, under ferocious prosecution. He claimed he'd lied to a ‘News of the World' reporter, when he admitted his errors, but told the truth in court, when he denied all guilt. The jury believed him and Harry “Houdini” was free.

An adept wheeler-dealer in the transfer market, though he hates the nomenclature, Harry, though insisting in court that he is a mere innocent when it comes to any kind of intellectual activity outside soccer, he in fact lives in a grandiose house at wealthy coastal locale, Sandbanks.

He was emphatically the People's Choice for the England position, but the FA dramatically appointed Roy Hodgson. Quite correctly, too, in my own view. For me, Roy should have had the job back in 1994, immediately after a World Cup in which he'd so splendidly taken his unfancied Swiss team, drawing with and beating Italy en-route, in the qualifiers. Alas, he didn't get appointed.

Later I watched him work diligently and impressively with Inter's players at their training ground, watched with huge admiration by Giacinto Facchetti, once the goal-scoring Inter and Italy left back, by then a club director. He managed Finland with distinction, got Fulham all the way to the final of the European Cup; even if he had a bleak spell at Liverpool, where the fans craved the return of Kenny Dalglish.

At the ensuing European Championship finals his team must do without its star turn, Wayne Rooney, in a few games, because he will be suspended. But international football is nothing new to Roy.