Roy Hodgson: A civilised man tries to make sense of the hatred

It's high noon for the Black Country derby and the darker side of human nature will be on display, but Albion's manager Roy Hodgson has seen it all before, writes Michael Henderson

A singular man, Roy Hodgson. Last week, as other Premier League managers took an international weekend off, he went to see Broken Glass, Arthur Miller's drama about kristallnacht seen through the filter of a Jewish family in Brooklyn. At midday today, when he sends out his West Bromwich Albion players against Wolves in a derby that means more to both sets of fans than any other fixture, there will also be a whiff of cordite in the air.

"The narcissism of small differences," Dr Freud called it, and doesn't football continue to prove him right? Already this season there has been vile behaviour at games involving Leeds and Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal, and – with the difference no wider than a park – Everton and Liverpool. The Black Country derby will be just as nasty. These people – not every one, but thousands of zealots who will make sure they are heard – detest "the other" and don't care who knows.

As one might expect of a man who has spent most of the past three decades working abroad, Hodgson, 64, takes a broader view. "The peculiar thing about hatred," he says, "is how it gets passed on. You would have thought it was good for this region to have two clubs in the Premier League. Rivalry, yes. Fierce competition, of course.

"I suppose you have to be born and bred here, to have it instilled in you. We don't have any players from the area, and neither do Wolves. Mick McCarthy isn't from round here, nor am I. We didn't grow up with the taunts and the teasing.

"The really worrying thing is seeing young children making obscene gestures when they don't know what they are doing. When I was growing up, watching Crystal Palace, you supported your club and cheered them on, but I'm not sure in those days that people even booed. The opposition were not there to be hated.

"Let's face it, without opponents there isn't a game," he adds. "Yet recently, when Liverpool played at Everton, a Liverpool player went to take a corner and you could see the hatred on the faces of Everton fans. You got the impression that some of them would willingly have jumped over the fence to get at him.

"Human nature should not astonish us, but what engenders that degree of hatred? I don't know whether we do enough to educate people to be more tolerant of the opposition, or whether society has changed to such a degree that it is impossible. Teachers are there to be hated, police officers are there to be hated. We don't seem to have many public figures any more who command respect.

"The people we look up to, it seems, are sporting idols, and even then we hate them if they are not ours."

Pick that one out of the net. Yet Hodgson is not an angry man. Old-fashioned (in the best sense) in manner and appearance, he looks as if he has wandered out of The Lavender Hill Mob. Despite his experience of life on the Continent, which clearly shaped him, and his fluency in four languages other than his own, he could not pass for anything other than an Englishman; more specifically, an Englishman from south London, who happens to be supremely well-versed in English and European literature.

It was the London background that helped do for him at Liverpool, where he spent an unhappy seven-month period that ended earlier this year. He doesn't dwell on that interlude, nor does he need to. The club were in a mess, the locals regarded him as an outsider (shades of the Old South and barely coded talk of "those New York lawyers"), and the press proved biddable. Liverpool are a great club in a parochial provincial city. A modest, well-rounded man was never likely to prosper there.

Instead Hodgson finds himself, as he did with Fulham, at a friendly club where expectations are more modest. He performed wonders at Craven Cottage, first by keeping Fulham up when they had one foot in the Championship, then by taking them into the Europa League, where they reached a final they lost by the odd goal in three. Named manager of the year by his peers, his work by the Thames ensured that he will be considered for the national coach's job when Fabio Capello stands down next summer.

"It would be hypocritical of somebody like myself, who has managed three national teams, to say that only an Englishman should do the job, but the mood of the country seems to be that the job should come back into native hands. I am not prepared to say that managing England is the be-all and end-all. But I would like to think that English managers will be among the leading candidates. Some of the smaller countries, if you like, may not have the coaching knowledge. But it is hard to fathom why that should be the case in countries like England, Germany, Italy or Spain."

With the post, he knows, come expectations that cannot possibly be met – or, rather, have been met only once, 45 years ago, when this country staged the tournament. "All the soul-searching about English football is baffling. Wayne Rooney was sent off for kicking an opponent in Montenegro. We all know he shouldn't have done it, but on the basis of a small episode in a game of 90 minutes people call into question the state of the game.

"Is it time to kick out the players? Is it time to boot out the manager? I heard that put forward on the radio. But I can tell you that if, for instance, John Terry became available tomorrow there would be plenty of clubs here and in Germany who would be happy to take him. If you were putting together a 'best eleven' from the European countries, there would be a few candidates from the England team. I don't think that powerful reactions to minor incidents get us very far."

In the meantime he tends his garden in the Midlands, content in the knowledge that the experience gathered over 35 years offers protection. "What matters is this: do I still have the passion? Yes, I do. I don't think being a football coach leads to equilibrium. It is a constant fight you have with yourself to maintain it, or restore it, but I have a greater sense of perspective now. I do this work because I really enjoy it, and I still think I have a lot to offer.

"I get as much fun working with the players here as I did when I started in 1976. You might think I would have got a bit cynical but that is not the case. Almost the opposite, in fact. It's easier to have the conversations and sometimes the intimacy, if that is the right word, with players now precisely because they do not belong to my peer group. I can adopt an avuncular approach at times, or I can say, 'We're all in this together'."

A football man to his fingertips, not easily deceived by the whims of a fickle world, Hodgson's race has a few more laps to run. Perhaps the Football Association should make a start by charging him with bringing the game into repute.

West Bromwich Albion v Wolverhampton Wanderers kicks off at 12pm today

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears