West Bromwich hand Hodgson a rapid return to the dugout
Roy Hodgson had 16 different jobs in his first 31 years in management, only two of them in England.
This week he will take up his third post in as many years in his native country when he succeeds Roberto Di Matteo at West Bromwich Albion. It seems the wanderer has returned home.
Hodgson's brief will be the same as it was at Fulham three years ago: retain Premier League status. Ostensibly the task appears much easier. Fulham were in dire trouble when Hodgson took up the reins and slipped deeper into the mire as the team struggled to adapt from Lawrie Sanchez's direct style of football to Hodgson's possession-based one. At the Hawthorns he inherits a team which is yet to drop into the relegation zone this season and already plays a passing game. However, Albion have won one and lost eight of their last 10 games and last kept a clean sheet in August, against Leyton Orient.
That should change under Hodgson who specialises in making teams hard to beat, something which did not find favour at Liverpool, who he joined from Fulham in the summer after steering the London club to the final of the Uefa Cup. That earned him legendary status at Craven Cottage, albeit slightly soured by his departure, but expectations are much higher at Anfield. Hodgson's inability to produce either consistent results, or attractive performances, meant he quickly lost favour with the supporters. Injuries to Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, and the disaffection of Fernando Torres, were dismissed by a fan base still pining for Rafael Benitez and with an instinctive preference for Kenny Dalglish who had also applied for the post. After a very difficult six months the 63-year-old was fired.
That was five weeks ago and Hodgson, who has signed a contract at West Bromwich to June 2012, said: "It was not my intention to return this quickly but I was so impressed by the way the chairman [Jeremy Peace] and [sporting & technical director] Dan Ashworth sold the project to me that I was very happy to accept the offer."
The mention of Ashworth is significant. One of Hodgson's attractions to Peace is his preparedness to work alongside an executive with Ashworth's recruitment brief, and experience of doing so.
Peace said: "At such a vital stage of the season, we felt it was important we identified and appointed the right man as quickly as possible. Roy emerged as the outstanding and unanimous choice. We believe his vast experience and knowledge of the game is exactly what we need for the challenge we face, both in the short and long-term."
Hodgson's first match will be next Sunday, against their local rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers. Albion's match against West Ham United today will be overseen by the coach Michael Appleton.
While Albion expect to have Marek Cech and Graham Dorrans available after groin and ankle problems, West Ham have more injury concerns with the news that last month's signing Robbie Keane could be out until April. Their vice-chairman, Karren Brady, said yesterday, "It might not be as long as six weeks, but it may be longer." She added of Keane, who scored on his debut at Blackpool: "We brought him in to make a difference and he already has done."
With James Tomkins and Matthew Upson doubtful, and Danny Gabbidon injured, Avram Grant may have only two fit centre-halves, Manuel da Costa and Winston Reid.
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