Ex-Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson has taken over from Roberto Di Matteo as manager of West Bromwich Albion after the Italian was sacked following a disastrous run of results that saw the Baggies lose 13 of their last 18 games. It will be the 63-year-old’s 21st management job in a football career that has spanned 46 years.
The move back into the dugout for has come much quicker than anyone expected, including Hodgson. From being unceremoniously sacked by Liverpool after just six months it was assumed by the watching football world that the well liked manager would take a well deserved break from the game.
However, it would seem that his desire to succeed Fabio Capello as England manager next summer after the Euro 2012 finals would be the main catalyst to a quick return to the game.
After England’s shocking display in the World Cup in South Africa last summer, it was widely believed the FA would sack Capello. That turned out not to be the case though as the FA could not afford to part company with the Italian due to the massive compensation package he would have been due.
Hodgson, manager at Fulham at the time, was monitoring all of this with great interest. He was the favourite to take over as England boss from Capello and had made it known that he was very interested in the position if and when it became available.
With Liverpool having just parted company with Rafael Benitez, they too were looking for a manager to right their sinking ship.
Remember, Liverpool FC was in absolute turmoil in July as the very real fear of administration crept nearer and nearer. Fearing the worst, Christian Purslow approached Hodgson on becoming the 18th manager at Anfield. Hodgson, while interested, held off on making decision until Fabio Capello’s position became clear.
When it was apparent that the FA were going to keep faith with the Italian until after Euro 2012 Hodgson went with Liverpool, but taking over the international hot seat was always a major item on his future agenda.
Since those heady days of the summer though, Hodgson’s reputation has taken something of a battering.
As Tom Hicks and George Gillett looked to sell the club before the October deadline, potential buyers like Kenny Huang, Peter Lim, and NESV made it clear that Fernando Torres staying was essential to their purchase of the club.
Hodgson, fresh from signing Joe Cole on a free transfer from Chelsea, flew to Madrid to meet with Torres at his family home. After explaining how Torres was central to the health of the club going forward, and how in most probability that Hicks and Gillett would pocket any monies accrued from his transfer, he decided to stay for one more year, or until the club was stable.
Unfortunately for Hodgson, all the best work he achieved for Liverpool Football Club was off the field. The League Managers Association Manager-of-the Year 2010 only managed to win 13 games from 31 with his overall record reading as PLD-31 W-13 D-9 L-9.
It would be fair to say that the Kop never really took to Hodgson. Almost from day one Liverpool fans called for, the current manager and Hodgson’s successor, Kenny Dalglish to be given one more chance.
It would also be fair to say that Hodgson looked out of his depth at Anfield and that the gravity of the position and all the pressure it entails were too much for him to handle. His brave attempt was not helped by the fact that his communication skills were decidedly poor and that he made several serious errors of judgement, most notably when he alienated the Kop after Liverpool lost 1-0 to Wolves.
From there NESV and John Henry had little option other than to part company with their manager and install Kenny Dalglish as a caretaker manager until the end of the season.
As a manager, Hodgson is famed for his thoroughness and insistence that certain plays are practised time and time again. When he first took over at Fulham he would spend hours practising one kind of counter attack and would not move onto another play until his team had perfected it.
It is a style of management that takes a long time for players to see the sense in. Players are selfish creatures and are generally fixated on results as they are what their payment and bonuses are based upon. If they do not come in then as a certain training technique is applied then the fault is with the training. If results are good, then they usually feel that the training is worthwhile.
At Fulham this approach took Hodgson months before his players finally began to believe in him. The end result was the Cottagers being very comfortable in the Premier League, challenging for Europe in successive seasons, and making it to the Europa League Final.
The same approach did not work at Anfield. How the Liverpool players felt about his style of coaching is unknown but it is clear for all to see that the player’s enthusiasm and efforts have doubled under Kenny Dalglish.
With his reputation tarnished by the excellent job that the new Liverpool boss has done in just 34 days and as Harry Redknapp sits comfortably in pole position to get the job he craves so much, Hodgson has returned to the game.
“It was not my intention to return to Barclays Premier League football this quickly,” said Hodgson.
“But I was so impressed by the way the chairman (Jeremy Peace) and the sporting and technical director (Dan Ashworth) sold the project to me that I was very happy to accept the offer.
“I am delighted that a club of West Bromwich Albion’s stature has given me the opportunity to help them in their quest to retain their Premier League status and to build for the future.”
Obviously Hodgson has not been given the job off the back of his failure at Liverpool but rather on his experience as a manager and the superb job he did at Fulham.
West Brom has developed a reputation as being something of a yo-yo club and has been relegated to the Championship and promoted back to the Premier League four times in the last decade. Their owner, Jeremy Peace, had hoped that up-and-coming manager Roberto Di Matteo would be the man to finally make WBA a fixture in the EPL but history has shown us different.
Now he has turned to Hodgson to achieve his dream.
“I am delighted to welcome Roy as our new head coach. At such a vital stage of the season, we felt it was important we identified and appointed the right man as quickly as possible,” Peace said.
“Roy emerged as the outstanding and unanimous choice and we are delighted to have appointed our No1 target. 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.”
It could be a match made in heaven.
Hodgson has 18 months before Fabio Capello vacates the England hot seat and if he can guide the Baggies out of the current slump to avoid relegation and help cement their position in the Premier League next season he is sure to be a leading candidate again.
Will he fulfil his dream of becoming England boss? Only time will tell.