The following is about Roy Hodgson, the England football manager, but it is neither really about football nor England. So those Scots and Welsh readers who hate both, hold your fulminating.
Full disclosure, as a Fulham FC season ticket holder I am very familiar with Mr Hodgson's work. His owlish wisdom led our historic, little club by the Thames to seventh in the Premier League and the Europa League final.
He is an intelligent, decent, measured, fair-minded and honourable polymath of a man, who has one of the more cosmopolitan CVs among his British peers. It includes taking lowly Switzerland to the last 16 of the 1994 World Cup finals and managing Inter Milan and Norway in addition to Liverpool, WBA, and Blackburn. Roy is held in considerable esteem internationally by other managers. He even thinks before he speaks.
Clearly then, he seems uniquely ill-suited to one of Britain's most high-profile, high-stress jobs. He neither talks in sound bites, nor plays to the media's fancies. The familiar sight of him wringing his hands or his own face on the touch line lost in thought and caring deeply through a mix of professional pride and patriotism is rare in public life. It's impossible to imagine hordes of spin doctors counselling Roy to wear “sports casual”.
The shocking media treatment of his predecessors might be cause for concern if he wasn't so experienced that little in football could surprise him. Although nothing was at bad as 'Turnip' Taylor, Capello turned out to be not so Fab, particularly at English; Sven lacked passion - although Nancy might disagree; Steve McLaren, the “wally with the brolly”: how dare he put an umbrella up in the rain?
Roy, not the tabloids' favourite for the job, needed a thick skin and immense mental strength - if only because he wasn't Harry Redknapp. If his team has plodded in international qualification, that's because he has a team of plodders by international standards, no matter how desperate England is for Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard to be the world beaters they're not. Now, suddenly, after decades in the game he is suddenly a brave tactical genius because he picked the in-form Spurs' winger Andros Townsend against lowly Montenegro (population? Bristol), and - for once - the gamble paid off.
Be careful Roy, they love to build 'em up - as you know after Liverpool. As England's qualification rests on a home match against Poland again (1973 and all that), I hope that whatever the result tomorrow, Roy is treated with the dignity his CV and integrity deserve. But if England fail, I fear he will need a much bigger brolly to ward off the deluge of bile that will rain upon him.
Stefano Hatfield is editorial director of London Live
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