Roy Hodgson – The master of lowering England’s expectations
“I thought we hung on well, all things considered we mustn’t be too disappointed; a point here gives a chance to build for the future,” said Roy Hodgson speaking after England’s 1-1 draw with Montenegro on Tuesday night.
Hodgson, the master of lowering expectations, was at it again in Podgorica.
There are people who claim that an away draw at international level should never be grumbled at, and of course, they have a point, but Hodgson’s reaction to a stalemate against a team with a national population of just over 600,000 was irritating at best, baffling at worst.
Of course, Hodgson has previous for these sound bites that reveal an exasperating inferiority complex; regardless of what team he is managing.
After seeing his Liverpool side enter their most turgid performance of testing campaign in their 2-0 defeat to fierce local rivals Everton in October 2010, Hodgson did not quite see the fuss being made from the Anfield faithful:
“I watched the performance and the second half was as good as I saw a Liverpool team play under my management that is for sure,” opined Hodgson, to the incredulity of all who follow the five-time European Cup winners.
Hodgson had, earlier that campaign, gave an almost comical response to a question put to him after a 3-0 defeat to Manchester City.
Asked if his techniques still worked in the Premier League in 2010, Hodgson fumed: “What do you mean do my methods translate? They have translated from Halmstads to Malmo, to Orebo to Neuchatel Xamax, to the Swiss national team, so I find the question insulting.”
Neuchatel Xamax, Orebo and Halmstads? To use such sides as a reference point to defend his managerial record was beyond belief to many who sat at the Etihad Stadium, watching Roberto Mancini’s side dismantle the Reds.
Hodgson has also flourished with this kind of Basil Fawlty-esque take on media handling in the role of national manager, particularly when criticising Wayne Rooney immediately after a quarter-final penalty shootout exit at the hands of Italy at Euro 2012.
Asked if the Manchester United striker was struggling for fitness after missing the first two Group games through suspension, the former Fulham boss dismissed such suggestions and claimed that Rooney simply was playing far below his level.
“In the first game against Ukraine, he didn’t show any particular signs of lacking fitness. He played 120 minutes [against Italy].
“What you might be saying is that you are a bit disappointed with his performance and maybe thought he could have played better. He didn’t have his best game – I’m sure he will admit that. That could be down to a number of factors but I don’t think the fitness itself was a particular factor.”
A masterclass in how to alienate your best player, minutes after a demoralising exit from a tournament that dominated two years of his international career.
The truth is, Hodgson had already worked his special brand of expectation – lowering before he had even picked a first XI for the Three Lions. Pipping red-hot favourite Harry Redknapp to the role of manager back in April 2012, many fans and pundits alike accepted that the forthcoming European Championships would be a write-off – a chance for Roy to experiment and blood some youngsters into the senior fold for experience, that may serve them well for future tournaments.
It was a majestic way of disarming a perpetually over-exuberant fanbase before a major tournament. Had Redknapp, who was forging a reputation as the darling of English football at the time, taken over as England chief, the nation would have been awash with optimism heading into the tournament, as the-then Tottenham Hotspur manager was riding high at White Hart Lane.
Of course, expectation levels would have risen unrealistically high, but would that have been any worse than accepting that a team comprised of players playing for some of the biggest teams in the Premier League every week will fail miserably?
We suspect that the truth is, Redknapp was not offered the job at Wembley due to the reported £10m compensation package that Spurs chairman Daniel Levy wanted for the services of the-now Queens Park Rangers boss.
Hodgson was even playing down his chances before he first sat in front of the press as national manager.
“I would rather hope that, if I was ever going to be offered the England job, it would be with the backing of the important people. Otherwise, it’s going to be a very difficult job for anyone who takes it.”
“A difficult job” indeed, one that he is not making any easier for himself or his team.