Sam Wallace: Like a good midfielder, Roy Hodgson took his time and was always in control
Hodgson impressed during his first press conference as England manager – he was calm and humble but did not sell himself short
It is said that nothing and no one can prepare a man for being England manager and the level of scrutiny it attracts, comparable perhaps, in British public life, to just a few people in high office. But if Roy Hodgson felt the slightest bit intimidated or overawed by his new job, he did not show it yesterday.
Whether you were a Redknappist or a Hodgsonian, you could hardly deny that at his introduction as England manager, the new man conducted himself with dignity and composure at Wembley. The nature of the job, its highs and its lows – with a tendency towards more of the latter, it should be said – often contrive to rob a man of his composure, but to be fair to Hodgson yesterday he looked as if he has deep reserves of the stuff.
The elephant in the room was the Football Association's decision not to give the job to Harry Redknapp, whose track record in recent years is undoubtedly superior to that of Hodgson. For the FA chairman, David Bernstein, Redknapp was the name that could not be mentioned, and never was. Bernstein did not utter it once. But Hodgson had no such hang-ups.
He said that Redknapp had left a voicemail to congratulate him and that he would respond. He also said that he had "empathy" with the Tottenham Hotspur manager but that Redknapp did not need his sympathy. It was a neat little linguistic shimmy from a man who is precise with his language. Having had an Italian manager who could not speak English, the FA now has an English manager who, among his many qualities, can speak Italian.
Hodgson was humble but he did not sell himself short. Asked whether he was surprised when the call came on Sunday from his West Bromwich Albion chairman, Jeremy Peace, to say that the FA wanted to speak to him, Hodgson rightly declined to play the awestruck schoolboy. "Nobody should expect," he said. "I wouldn't say I was particularly surprised. I was always hoping that the choice would be made and would work out in my favour."
He has worked in Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway and Italy for the likes of Jack Walker and Massimo Moratti. His career has not been a story of overwhelming success in terms of the great prizes, but it has taught Hodgson how to work his way through a tricky situation. Yesterday's press conferences were awkward at times but, like the great midfielder his England team currently lack, Hodgson took his time and always seemed to be in control.
Even when the question came of why he played in South Africa as a 26-year-old at time when there was a boycott of the apartheid system by sportspeople, Hodgson gave a reasonable, honest explanation. He was certainly not the only player of that era to do so, and it cannot be a proud memory for any of them. As England manager he can expect his life to be examined as never before.
While one gets the impression that England's chances of success at Euro 2012 are being radically downplayed at the FA, Hodgson is aware that he cannot afford simply to write the tournament off. He does not have that well of goodwill upon which to draw.
What would constitute success at the European Championship? "Difficult question," Hodgson said. "One is tempted to say, because it's England, that success is only reaching the latter stages. Even tempted to say the only success is winning. But I'd like people to cut us a bit of slack in that respect.
"The resignation of Fabio Capello has made the situation somewhat different. If Fabio had stayed on ... he'd been doing all the work with the players and preparing the team. I'm only going to have been here a short period of time. These players, if they do the best they can do, they can do well."
Hodgson was once described as a good, old-fashioned detective inspector – exact with his language, if given to an occasional tendency to over-elaborate, and determined to give answers that cannot tie him to any one course of action. It was meant as a compliment and yesterday it was an invaluable skill. Sooner or later, Hodgson knows he will have to offer up some hard truths about the team and make some difficult decisions
"If I'm judged during the Euros, I have to live with that," he said. "The most important thing is that the country gets behind England and people don't use that as an excuse to fail."
He referred to Bernstein as "chairman" and there is no doubt that as men of the same generation (the FA chairman is older by four years) they have much in common. But Hodgson made it clear he was not selected because he has promised to be a de facto technical director; he was there because they thought he was the most likely candidate to be successful with the senior team. He will visit the FA's new centre St George's Park when the job of being England manager allows it
"It's always a big job to win people over," he said. "It's important to have a chance, and it's important to have the confidence to do the job I know I can do. It's important the players buy into what we do, and that the country buys into what we're trying to do. I'm expecting a lot of support."
He is not about to beg for approval and he certainly is not about to spend the next six months discussing what happened at Liverpool – "a chapter in the past" he said yesterday – which is fair enough. There was a touch of humility and a strong sense of confidence which, at this stage, is the most anyone can ask for.
Opening optimism: England managers' first words down the years
On what it means to be named England manager...
Roy Hodgson "I'm looking forward to the task ahead. Everyone knows it is not an easy one but I'm hoping that everyone will get behind the team".
Fabio Capello (2008-2012)
"I have wanted this job for a long time and I know there are great expectations that go with it."
Steve McClaren (2006-2007)
"This was an opportunity I couldn't refuse and I'm probably the proudest man in England today. To manage your country is the greatest honour which can be bestowed on anyone."
Sven Goran Eriksson (2001-2006)
"I will prove my critics wrong with good football and good results."
Kevin Keegan (1999-2000)
"I'm excited by it. It's exhilarating. You have just got to do it your way. I'll do it my way and hopefully it will be enjoyable."
Glenn Hoddle (1996-1999)
"I've had a burning ambition to do this since I was a very young age. It's the only job, in England or abroad, which I would have left Chelsea [where he was manager before taking the England job] for."
On ambitions for England...
Hodgson "I think England always have to go into tournaments to win them because we are a major football nation. The players would be disappointed if we expected less of them than trying to win the tournament. What we'll be trying to do is give England the type of successful football team we've been looking for since 1966"
Capello "I want to see all players playing for England like they do for their clubs."
McClaren "I am results-orientated and I'm here to do a job, win matches and make sure England over the next four years win a major trophy."
Keegan "We want to try and match what the '66 team did. They had a bit of luck and we will need that."
Hoddle "My ambition is to be successful. The talent is there. There is a crop of exciting young players coming through, which gives me the chance to do well. I want to do so in a manner which is close to my heart and, I believe, close to the public's as well."
On the pressures that the job will bring...
Hodgson "The England manager's job is the pinnacle of success for every English manager and it certainly brings with it a lot of scrutiny and criticism and I have to be prepared for that."
Keegan "I know what comes with the job, I know the upside and downside. In this country people get very emotional about football and that's what I like about it. It's my job not to get beheaded. I don't want a knighthood but I want to keep my head on my shoulders."
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