Belfast Telegraph

Roy Hodgson made me a better player

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland star Gareth McAuley is convinced Roy Hodgson will prove to be a success as England's new boss if the players buy into his football philosophies.

In his first season in the Premier League McAuley has worked with Hodgson at close hand at West Bromwich Albion and has been hugely impressed with the FA's choice to replace Fabio Capello.

Former Crusaders and Coleraine defender McAuley has enjoyed an outstanding campaign, looking as if he has played in the top flight all his life. He puts much of that down to the knowledge of Hodgson, who will leave the Baggies on Sunday week to start his new career as England coach ahead of the European Championship finals.

The ex-Switzerland, Liverpool, Inter Milan and Fulham boss was unveiled last week and has already had to deal with negative headlines in the English press, most of whom had hoped to see Tottenham's Harry Redknapp given the role.

McAuley, 32, will be sad to see Hodgson leave the Hawthorns, but believes the FA have picked the right man.

“From a selfish point of view I'm disappointed that Roy is leaving West Brom but on the other hand I'm delighted for him that he is getting the chance to manage his country,” said McAuley. “He's had high profile clubs and managed at international level before so he has all the experience necessary and I think it is good timing for England and a great job for him to take on.

“I believe he will take the press coverage in his stride. He's well educated and can deal with things like that. Roy will know the press had their favourite. It seems to me a lot of the time the English press do the hiring and firing of their national team managers. He'll be aware that if England lose he'll get criticised, but he is experienced enough to cope with it.

“I genuinely feel if the England players buy into what Roy believes and wants, like we have done at West Brom, then England will do very well. With the way he sets things out, everyone knows their job and it has proved successful for us.

“If he isn't a success, it may not be completely down to him as people have to buy into the thinking behind his methods and see the bigger picture of what is trying to be achieved.”

It appeared that the Liverpool players didn't buy into the Hodgson way — certainly the fans didn't — as he left Anfield in January last year, six months after taking over, with Kop favourite Kenny Dalglish replacing him.

“It's not as cut and dried as people have made out about his time at Liverpool,” says McAuley.

“When you look at what was going on at the club when he was manager a lot of things were happening off the pitch and he was overshadowed a bit by other people at the club.

“It was disappointing for him but the England job will be completely different.

“It's worth remembering that after leaving Liverpool he picked up the reins at West Brom, kept the team in the Premier League last season and progressed us this season. That is the mark of a man who got back in the saddle, believing in his own ability and his coaching methods.”

McAuley, for one, has benefited from Hodgson's influence after arriving at West Brom last summer from Ipswich Town.

The Northern Ireland international says: “Roy made me think a lot more about the game and what was required in the Premier League. Previously I had been used to the Championship and lower leagues where there is more muscle and more contact.

“He preached a lot to me about defending and the value of staying on your feet. I've played 30 odd times now and haven't had a booking. That's not by not making tackles, it's about making tackles at the right time and about staying on your feet and staying with attackers.

“Roy has taught me that going to ground is the easy way out and can put your team-mates in bother. It's better to stay on your feet and see the danger out. That has really helped me and my game.”

Hodgson's farewell appearance at the Hawthorns comes on Sunday against Arsenal before the 64-year-old starts preparing in earnest for the Euro 2012 finals.

McAuley adds: “Everyone appreciates what he has done for the club in the last 15 months and will want to give him a great send-off.

“I think we know he couldn't turn down the opportunity to coach his national side.

“It's a massive job and a massive honour for him and I wish him well.”

Big G on Roy

The man

Obviously people have opinions of him from seeing his interviews on TV, but I don't think when you are a manager of a football club that your personality can come across unless you are playing with the media.

He's as straight as they come and tells it the way it is whether it is good or bad. He gives you an honest opinion and treats everyone the same. I think there is a real integrity about him.

We, as players, see a different side to him than others. Some people may not believe this but he is quite a humourous man. He knows there is a time and a place for jokes and drops a few things in that has the boys laughing. So, he has that as well as a serious side.

Hodgson the tactician

Everything he does is very thorough and methodical. You get all the information you need to go out into the game. Everyone knows what they have to do and the shape and the pattern he wants the team to play.



On the training ground

He's a coach and takes the sessions and responsibility for what we do. He makes sure our pattern for each individual game is right.

He will work towards the next game on how we are going to break teams down going forward and how he wants us to defend. He works on shape and we do quite a lot of that with him, but he mixes it up with other things as well. I've found training very enjoyable under him.

Hodgson in the dressing room

He motivates you with words and drops things into your head the whole way through the week preparing for games. He wouldn't be a shouter or bawler in the dressing room.

Everything is done beforehand and when you get to the ground it's your own time and your own preparation. He might just have a little word with you about what you are up against, putting pictures in your head.

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