Belfast Telegraph

Will Roy Hodgson want the England job?

By Sam Wallace

In his autobiography, 'Arry, published in 1998, Harry Redknapp devotes the first chapter to rebutting the allegation that – to put it bluntly – he stitched up his friend Billy Bonds in order to get the West Ham manager's job four years earlier.

In the chapter “Bonds of Friendship”, Redknapp concedes that “many West Ham fans still wonder about the background to my replacing Bill as Hammers manager on the eve of the 1994-95 season. ‘Did Harry stab his best pal in the back?’ is the gist of their thoughts. I know in my heart of hearts, and I sincerely hope Bill feels the same, that nothing could be further from the truth.”

Redknapp concedes even then that he has not spoken to Bonds since, despite having been best man at his wedding. Their mutual friend Sir Trevor Brooking, the current director of football development at the Football Association, is mentioned just once in the book but legend has it that he has never liked Redknapp since then.

Brooking is a decent man and he will have known from the moment that the Club England board decided to approach West Bromwich Albion for Hodgson, the rejection of Redknapp would be pinned on him. Whether the Club England quartet ever chose to explain their decision to overlook Redknapp remains to be seen.

The Tottenham Hotspur manager was the overwhelming candidate for the job given that it was always the FA’s intention, if at all possible, to appoint an Englishman. Redknapp had Champions League experience, his team finished fifth last season and fourth the year before. He had beaten both Milan teams in Europe and, before their recent slump, Spurs were playing some of the best football in the Premier League.

Redknapp’s acquittal on two charges of tax evasion at Southwark Crown Court on 8 February, the day that Fabio Capello quit, was regarded as the last obstacle to him becoming England manager. But Brooking; FA chairman David Bernstein; FA general secretary Alex Horne and Club England managing director Adrian Bevington thought otherwise.

Instead, they have backed Hodgson who, by his own admission, will take the temperature of the nation’s reaction before making his mind up whether he wants the job. Beyond him, the options leading up to Euro 2012 are slim indeed. Redknapp will not countenance being second choice. Who else? Stuart Pearce?

There must at least be some confidence among the FA that Hodgson will take the job because otherwise it really will be Pearce naming the European championships squad on 10 May, an outcome that no-one at the governing body really wanted. It is unthinkable that the FA will not have had some notion that Hodgson was amenable before placing all their eggs in that basket.

It is a personal choice that Redknapp was the stronger candidate but it is not hard to see Hodgson’s qualities. After the nightmare at Liverpool in which he had precious few transfer funds, he has resumed his success at West Brom, which, at that club, is mid-table security.

In the past, he has taken both Inter Milan and Fulham to the Uefa Cup/Europe League final, the latter a stunning achievement. During his time as manager of Switzerland (1992-95), the United Arab Emirates (2002-04) and Finland (2006-07) he lost only four out of 30 qualifier games.

He was a big success with Switzerland, taking them to the 1994 World Cup finals and overseeing qualification for Euro 1996. Hodgson never went to the tournament itself because he was appointed manager of Inter Milan in November 1995, although he wanted to continue in both roles.

Speaking in August, Hodgson said that the role of England manager should go beyond just running the national team. “I would go further,” he said. “I think a national team manager's job - if I refer back to Switzerland - has to go beyond eight or nine matches times four or five days of training. The effect a manager can have on lots of other areas within a country's football, is quite enormous.

“I'm sure the FA with David Bernstein in charge are aware of that. You don't want to be employing someone just for nine games a year. Then we'd go back to the old argument of whether we need a full-time manager, when we could go to a bloke who is running a club side and give him a double job. We accepted long ago that is totally out of the question.

“I think the job has a lot of other facets to it and could have even more now, with St George's Park and what's going on there. If I was an FA chairman that would be something I would be thinking about.”

All this will undoubtedly be what the FA wishes to hear from its first choice candidate. That he comes without strings attached will also be a bonus. The question is: will Hodgson want the job?

FA: Four-man panel

David Bernstein The FA Chairman

Alex Horne General Secretary

Sir Trevor Brooking Director of Football Development

Adrian Bevington Managing Director of Club England

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