by Daisy Cutter
Roy Hodgson very much strikes me as someone who tuts at the sight of graffiti and stoops with a world-weary sigh to pick up stray litter in the street, yearning for the return of National Service as he does so.
He is a man cut precisely from old school cloth, from a time when people placed great value on values and aspired for decency. He presumably owns a pair of Sunday slacks and is summoned by relatives into lecturing their youngest on the perils of smoking.
For these reasons alone he was – and remains – the perfect short-term appointment to preside over an England set-up that was in danger of going to the dogs.
His appointment in May 2012 oversaw the last dull shine of a supposed golden generation that glinted at promise before finally being consigned for scrap. Few tears have been shed for the retirements or gradual fazing out of John Terry, Ashley Cole, Gareth Barry, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard because by common consensus we know they had their time and that time was strewn with disappointment.
Now it’s the turn of the new young charges and in Stones, Shaw, Chambers, Wilshere, Barkley, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sterling, Sturridge, and others there is sufficient reserves of promise and potential to justify hope for the future.
But it is important that we remind ourselves what that hope consists of. For these lion cubs there is thankfully very little hype nor unrealistic expectation to emulate the achievement of ’66 but rather we crave the regaining of pride; to have a national side who contests major championships with some degree of tactical astuteness and technical nous as we strive to challenge the Germanys and Spains measure for measure.
Should we come up short – and odds favour that to happen – so be it because fundamentally what we desired most was something so prudent as to be considered perhaps a touch pitiful – to be relevant again.
For this to occur drastic changes needed to be undertaken and from our end – as supporters – we’ve done our bit. There has been a blessed end to the over-estimation of our stars with even an ongoing debate as to whether our depressingly over-lauded savour Rooney should be in the starting eleven.
From Hodgson’s perspective he too is fulfilling his brief in instilling some sense of order and direction from inherited chaos. If you want to consider this in a negative it can be perceived as flattening the ground from which to build again but who could argue that this wasn’t needed? Recall for a moment what state Capello left us in – with a disharmonious dressing room full of puffed-up self-worth and the complete absence of blueprints nevermind a long-term mandate – and duly shudder.
To that end there are no more dominating egos and scandal. No more disunity. Far less evidence of writing cheques with your club form that your Three Lions performances cannot cash. In his two year tenure so far Hodgson has meticulously mentored his pupils – for that is what they are – into going about things the right way by which I don’t mean wearing a blazer for sit-down meals or always addressing FA officials as ‘sir’ but rather on the pitch. There is clearly a consistent attempt at implementing a system and players reaching organised synchronicity within it and short-term failures in results and even performances pale to the benefits that potentially lie ahead.
Roy was employed to be England’s National Service – a short, sharp shock of sensible to lay the proper and correct foundations from which to slowly slowly catchy Germany. I may be mistaken but wasn’t this always the plan? Wasn’t this precisely the reason the FA chose a seasoned coach with an extensive CV across Europe over the frills-n-spills glorified cheerleading of Redknapp?
Not even the most optimistic of England fans expected much from Brazil and the team duly disappointed with a flat tournament. But that disappointment has made us forget our concerns from two years ago and refocus our gripes.
If public feeling has been gauged correctly this week now we want excitement from our national side. The enemy now is not the absence of structure but rather supporter apathy. We may be shit but hey, let’s unleash our pups and play some open, adventurous football. Is ‘Arry still available?
To which I say no, no, and for the love of god no. That excitement will come as too will the adventure as the likes of Sterling and Barkley flourish on the international stage. And it won’t be under the tutelage of Hodgson and it won’t be now but nor should it.
Whoever takes over from Roy and injects that gusto and abandon – and let’s say for the sake of argument its Brendan Rodgers four years hence – will be a fortunate gaffer indeed because they’ll be inheriting a talented squad approaching their peak who have been well-drilled, well-schooled, and regimented into a uniform plan of action.
Roy was always the bridge, never the destination.
It is a necessary long-overdue period of pragmatism. So let’s not lose our heads.