Fair game? Roy Hodgson already suffering tough time from tabloids

The Sun is famed for vilifying England managers, but it appears to have scored an early own goal in its mocking of Roy Hodgson's speech

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The Independent Online

The British press is not known for giving England football managers an easy ride, and Roy Hodgson might have had more reason than most to anticipate a tough time in the tabloids after he was picked over the bookies' favourite Harry Redknapp.

What the new national coach probably hadn't imagined was the country's largest red-top yesterday deciding to run a front page mocking his speech impediment. The condemnation from players and fans was swift.

The Sun covered the story of the 64-year-old's appointment with the headline "Bwing on the Euwos!", adding: "We'll see you in Ukwaine against Fwance."

Mr Hodgson, who can speak five languages, has a speech disorder called rhotacism, which means he struggles to pronounce the letter "r".

Mr Hodgson is often referred to as "Woy" in an affectionate manner among fans of Fulham and West Brom, two clubs at which he has enjoyed success, but players – and his new employer, the Football Association – yesterday objected to the paper's tone.

The FA called the coverage "unacceptable", adding that it had been in touch with the paper's management.

The FA's chairman, David Bernstein, said: "We are delighted at the media response to Roy's appointment but are disappointed with the headline in The Sun, which we consider is in poor taste and disrespectful."

More than 100 people complained to the Press Complaints Commission, the press regulator said yesterday.

A number of prominent professionals also lined up to criticise the newspaper. Gary Neville, England's most capped right-back and now a television pundit, wrote: "Disgusting headlines, good journos under pressure writing pieces for their mates and a certain paper needs putting out of circulation."

His brother Phil Neville, who has played for his country 59 times, called the piece "disgraceful journalism".

Anti-bullying campaigners last night joined criticism of the newspaper. Sherry Adhami, a spokeswoman for Beat Bullying, said: "It's just about being responsible. Making fun of anyone because of their appearance or something they cannot help is not something we condone. We shouldn't target people because of their differences."

Mr Hodgson signed a four-year contract on Monday, succeeding Fabio Capello, who resigned after disagreeing with the FA over the sacking of John Terry as England captain ahead of his trial on charges of racially abusing a fellow player.

Mr Hodgson's appointment came as a shock to many football fans, who had anticipated the job going to Mr Redknapp, who currently coaches Tottenham. The Sun was among a number of newspapers that backed Mr Redknapp for the role, and yesterday it spoke of him being "sensationally spurned" in favour of Mr Hodgson.

A leader article in the paper yesterday titled "Good luck, Roy", stresses how Mr Hodgson "wasn't the nation's choice. But we can't blame him for not being 'Arry."

The newspaper, which has never held back in taking England managers to task, famously branded Graham Taylor a "turnip" and dubbed Steve McClaren the "wally with the brolly".

Reactions on the twittersphere

Gary Neville

"Disgusting headlines, good journos under pressure writing pieces for their mates and a certain paper needs putting out of circulation."

Andy Murray

"Interesting front page of 'The Sun' today... Seems like they really want Hodgson to succeed.... #helpful."

Phil Neville

"Have u seen front page of 'The Sun' this morning disgraceful journalism – what chance have we got!"

David Yelland, former Sun editor

"So little compassion for Roy Hodgson today, bullying language, pointlessly cruel, pointlessly hurtful."

David Bernstein, FA chairman

"We are disappointed with the headline in 'The Sun', which we consider is in poor taste and disrespectful."

Jacqui Oatley, BBC football broadcaster

"Hodgson has won 11 major titles/trophies, speaks five languages but let's mock his speech."