Roy Hodgson is the toast of a proud FA, just don't mention Harry Redknapp
Board puts strong case for its new man but maintains silence over spurned Spurs contender
The Football Association was obviously proud of its pick and of its process yesterday. All four members of the Club England board flanked new manager Roy Hodgson at the Wembley press conference, and three of them spoke enthusiastically about their new man. Confidence in the team and its chances, though, was rather less obvious.
Hodgson's familiarity with the pressures and rhythms of international football clearly counted in his favour. As the FA pointed out, repeatedly, Hodgson was a successful manager of Switzerland who had also coached United Arab Emirates and Finland. To prioritise that was a new departure.
"This is the first time the FA have appointed an England manager with any previous experience of international football," the FA chairman, David Bernstein, announced. "That experience can only help us with our plans for Brazil in 2014. He has outstanding contacts through his work with Uefa and Fifa. This experience, ability and track record of building teams made him the outstanding candidate for us."
All true enough: Hodgson has all of that and more, including a League Managers Association Manager of the Year award, a run to a European final, and titles won in Sweden and Denmark. But he was not the favourite for this job. The reason for the FA's choice of Hodgson over Harry Redknapp was the question hanging over the afternoon, but Bernstein insisted it had been a careful, deliberative process, which concluded in a unanimous, unambiguous decision.
"We only approached one club," Bernstein said. "We initially put together a list of names for consideration, then reduced that down in time. Roy emerged as the standout name. We canvassed views and opinions from a wide number of people in the game. With the board, we were unanimous in choosing Roy, a manager of vast experience of international and European football."
There was no need for a public competition, Bernstein said, as the FA could choose the best candidate itself: "We felt that, if we did our homework sufficiently strongly, our research thoroughly, and the whole thing in a measured, professional way, it was better to come up with one favoured candidate than interview a range of people."
Of course, it has been suggested that Hodgson was the value candidate, with an expiring contract at a mid-table club. Again, Bernstein repelled the claim. "We were driven purely be the desire to get the best person," he said. "It was definitely not financially driven."
The board did not mention Redknapp by name. The closest acknowledgement of his presence was when Bernstein suggested the board had not taken the popular option. "There were easier appointments," he conceded. "It shows the level of confidence that we went for this appointment understanding all the issues."
There certainly is confidence from the FA board in its handling of this. They have a good manager in place before the end of the season; it was not always clear it would end this well. "It has been handled very professionally, confidentially," Bernstein said. "We always said we'd make the appointment around now, and we've stuck to our timing."
While the FA spoke to Hodgson only last weekend, it said that it had chosen him roughly one month ago, but delayed contact. "We thought it was too early and might disrupt West Brom's season," Bernstein explained, although supporters of Tottenham Hotspur might raise an eyebrow or two.
But the man is in place and now he has to drag England through a European Championship. Bernstein announced, mercifully, that there was "no fixed minimum target" for Euro 2012.
Football matters, though, were largely left to Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's director of football development. And here, the optimism and pride were slightly dampened. "It's going to be a tough job, whoever the manager is," Brooking acknowledged. "Tournament football has always been a big challenge. The likes of Germany, Holland and Spain will be ahead of us in terms of expectancy." They certainly will, and in other terms too. "But the coach we have appointed can improve the group."
Reaction to Roy: What the game thinks
(England and Arsenal)
"Not many have the experience that Roy Hodgson has, he has proved he is a top manager at international level so don't see any reason why he can't do it for England... good choice in my opinion! Good luck and I hope I can help him in some way in the future!"
(England and Liverpool)
"I've worked with Roy. He's a good man and a good manager. It's important he's given a chance and I'm looking forward to working with him again."
(West Bromwich Albion, the club Hodgson will be leaving at the season's end)
"Congratulations to Roy Hodgson, he will do a good job for England like he has done for us over last 18 months. Great coach and a good man."
(West Bromwich Albion)
"It was a pleasure working with him. Hope he will do well with the England."
Roberto Di Matteo
"It'll be difficult for anybody but I think he's got all of the experience that you need for a national team."
Sven Goran Eriksson
"Roy is very organised, knows his football and has been successful in many countries."
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