Hodgson possesses proper attributes

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The Independent Online

Consider whether any candidate would fulfil the criteria of England coach: sustained success, international experience, capability of handling outside pressures, ability to focus solely on the job, tactical astuteness, long-term commitment, ability to communicate and integrity.

Consider whether any candidate would fulfil the criteria of England coach: sustained success, international experience, capability of handling outside pressures, ability to focus solely on the job, tactical astuteness, long-term commitment, ability to communicate and integrity.

The Football Association keeps saying nobody has been ruled out by the adoption of the criteria, though, when the list was first published, a queue of commentators formed behind me in suggesting it was as if the requirements such as integrity, sustained success and ability to withstand outside pressures had been included so as to give them an easy get-out for passing over Terry Venables.

One could quite easily construct an argument in favour of Venables, given the way he shrugged off all the writs and accusations thrown at him last time he was appointed. He demonstrated singular ability to focus on the job in hand.

It is a moot point whether even the most successful England manager in history would have satisfied the FA's stringent criteria. If Sir Alf Ramsey had the ability to communicate, he certainly did not employ it in his dealings with the press, whom he collectively regarded as a bunch of dolts and ne'er-do-wells, treating them in equal measure with clipped brusqueness and lofty condescension.

When England started dropping World Cup points in 1973, his poor PR meant he hadn't a leg to stand on and Don Revie, with an unrivalled club record, was soon given the job, to the incredulity of one senior football administrator who told the FA: "You must be off your heads". He evidently didn't think Revie would be capable of withstanding the greater pressures of international football and he was eventually proved right when Revie decamped to the desert.

Glenn Hoddle left the job because it was felt in some quarters he took communication too far: with the "other side".

Given the current preoccupation of the FA with image, it is surprising it did not include discipline in the list of criteria. This might have been a stick Venables could have been beaten with, for, despite the dignified manner of his England team's departure from Euro 96, he was unable to identify the culprit among the players who trashed the Cathay Pacific plane on the return from Hong Kong just before the tournament.

Maybe it is time to take a completely different tack, for the criteria make no mention of sex, or rather gender. Perhaps a woman would more readily meet the requirements.

I couldn't see Ann Widdecombe standing for any high jinks on a plane. Anne Robinson, a graduate of the Alf Ramsey school of public relations, would fall at the first hurdle, as would Anthea Turner, from an entirely different PR school.

Carol Vorderman could probably do the job, as she manages just about everything else. If the team needs major reconstruction, no doubt Cher could be considered, and her step aerobics would go down a bomb at training. I am sure Lily Savage is in good standing with players and fans, to give another criterion, and would bring a certain directness to the team talks.

But for international experience, it is hard to see past Roy Hodgson. No doubt he found it easier to secure a ringing endorsement from the Swiss fans wielding their cowbells at the USA World Cup in 1994 and Euro 96 than he would to satisfy a cynical English press and public, but he has been there and done it at the highest level. Hodgson is a modern Euro-citizen, smart, multi-lingual and convivial, with the added advantage of being married to a sensible northern girl.

His failure at Blackburn Rovers counts heavily against him among those members of the selection panel who are friendly with the Rovers hierarchy. What went wrong at Ewood? He is smart enough to recognise now that, while his methods were originally a breath of fresh air, he could have benefited from a strong No 2 who would have counselled him when to back off from the afternoon training sessions which were becoming too much for the English players.

As a continental-style coach he was not accustomed to buying players and, when purchases such as Kevin Davies did not succeed, his credibility was damaged. He had the ability to do everything himself, but he did not need to demonstrate it all the time. A conscious decision to exhibit a little flexibility and humility would have been sensible. None of this detracts from his ability to produce a successful England team. He would do a great job and still find time to pick up one of his favourite Havana cigars from duty free.

grahamkelly@btinternet.com

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