“I don’t really know what I am doing here.” Roy Hodgson sounded like a kid who just sleepwalked into a class he doesn’t belong to, at a media conference in Chantilly, having resigned as the England manager after their humiliating defeat at the hands of Iceland at Euro 2016.
“I didn’t see the defeat coming. Nothing in the first three games here gave me any indication that we would play as poorly as we did.” Thoughtful words indeed, which would propel even a blind person’s eyes popping out with disbelief and even the dumbest of the dumb scratching his head, such has been the horror show of England against Iceland, and in particular, most of their time in this Euro, barring the second half revival against Wales, which finally accounted for nothing.
Hodgson termed this as a one-off event- one of the too many one-offs in his four-year-long tenure as the England boss. Coming into the tournament, even the most optimistic England fan would not have guaranteed their team surpassing the quarter-final stage, and nothing in the first three games gave the footballing world any indication that England will light up the Euro.
Yes, Hodgson’s team won ten out of ten in the Euro qualifiers, yet when they arrived on the big stage, they fell apart so spectacularly. Their performance in the qualifiers was just a smokescreen for their dour and fragile display at the Euros- one step forward, ten steps backwards.
Missing in the big occasions
England had suffered their worst defeat at the hands of the USA in World Cup 1950, but this defeat against Iceland was equally damaging. Once Iceland was in front, England never looked threatening to come back and win it. The players were shell-shocked and retreated back into their shells.
At the touchline, Hodgson appeared totally clueless, fragile and lost, proving yet again that he is not at all a tactical genius. He had the tools, but left some behind in England on the way to France and couldn’t use the available ones at his disposal when the moment arrived.
Also read: What next for the English national team?
Under Hodgson, England thrashed minnows like San Marino, Moldova and Montenegro, but was forced into submission at the hands of bigger teams. When the big picture arrived, his team went totally missing.
Prior to the World Cup 2014, he stated that his England squad could win the World Cup, and by the end of the group stages, the England players found themselves in the living rooms of their homes, watching the rest of the tournament in envy. Maybe, Roy had played the FIFA manager game with his squad prior to the tournament and won it.
Baffling team selections
What is annoying about Hodgson, is that he picked his team based on names rather than merit. The decision to include Jack Wilshere, who spent the majority of the 2015-16 season injured, ahead of star performers of the season like Danny Drinkwater and Mark Noble surely raised eyebrows, and in the end came back to haunt the team in the pitch. Whenever a new player was picked for his team and couldn’t hit the ground running in England colours, he was dropped and never resurfaced.
Wayne Rooney’s inclusion in midfield in the starting line-up for the Euros looked like using a shaving blade instead of an axe to cut down an oak tree. At the end, he had all four of his recognised strikers on the pitch, and as a result, England was run ragged in the middle.
While the best midfielders were on the bench or at home, Harry Kane was taking corners and Daniel Sturridge was dropping deep into his own half, whereas, Hodgson was unable to seek inspiration from his own decisions and sank into his chair at the dug-out, helpless.
Hodgson’s final match mirrored his time as England manager. Never in his reign, Hodgson knew how to field his best starting line-up. Like his predecessors, he was unable to perfectly integrate Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in midfield during World Cup 2014 and eventually England went crashing out in the group stages.
When his team looked deterred during matches, he was often seen unable to conjure up something special. When his substitutions worked, they really were flukes rather than any sort of his tactical brilliance.
Never made for the elite
In truth, Hodgson was never an elite-level manager. He is a manager who could coax out the best from countries like Switzerland and Finland, and clubs like Fulham to punch above their weights. He saw himself as one of the most respected coaches in Europe, but his coaching tenures in Inter Milan and Liverpool were never convincing, and never earned him the level of respect he had for himself.
In fact, his period in Milan during 1995-97, is reminded by the Italian club for how he handled Roberto Carlos. The Brazilian legend, who was a rising talent at that time, was fielded by Hodgson in the midfield rather than in the preferred left back position, much to the annoying of the fans and the player alike. Carlos left the season after Roy’s appointment to Real Madrid, and as people say, the rest is history.
Taking charge of Liverpool in the summer of 2010, Hodgson took the Merseyside club to unprecedented lows in their Premier League history, with Hodgson’s reign at the club being referred by the Liverpool fans as ‘football from the dark ages’.
Under him, Liverpool was transformed from Champions League contenders to a fragile mid-table team, and he was subsequently sacked in January 2011. The transfers he made at Liverpool were the worst in the club’s history- none of them were inspiring and most of them were shipped out of the club after their first season in Merseyside.
A waste of four years
Hodgson is a good person, seen by everyone as well-mannered and well-behaved, but he didn’t equally command the respect for his coaching prowess. England needed a stronger set-up and never in his four-year reign, was Hodgson able to provide that. Not only he didn’t get it right, his team was devoid of any identity during that time, the reason why England are struggling in international tournaments. After all, the four years of Hodgson managing the team was a total waste.
Had he continued at the helm, attending England’s game would certainly be the doctors’ prescription to those who are suffering from insomnia, such has been the dearth of England's performance under Hodgson. He never looked like the man capable of bringing success to England, and his stubborn approach to team selection screwed up the prospects of his national team and it will take time for his successor to bring England out of their turmoil.
England have the resources but don’t have a man to perfectly utilise them. And 50 years after that famous World Cup victory, England is still waiting for silverware.
Adieu Roy, the wait continues for England.