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Hodgson a familiar, sad sight after England collapse in a Heep

Given his reputation as a voracious reader, it was perhaps unsurprising that Roy Hodgson brought a Dickensian flavour to his final news conference as England manager.

A late addition to Tuesday’s briefing in Chantilly alongside Football Association (FA) chief executive Martin Glenn, Hodgson insisted he was not there to toe any party line.

“I don’t want to come here as Uriah Heep,” he blurted, referencing the infamous yes-man from David Copperfield.

There was not much danger of that. As a rule, such characters don’t grumpily wonder aloud whether there is any point in them being there. Hodgson might have been a fine football coach in his day, but here he proved a terrible yes-man.

This came after being chiefly responsible for a terrible football team. Bolting further Dickens references on to England’s ill-fated Euro 2016 campaign, which began with great expectations but sunk to truly the worst of times during Monday’s 2-1 defeat to Iceland, is like shooting fish in a barrel.

From a terse sit-down with the press last Thursday to the ignominious curtain call he felt was utterly futile, Hodgson’s final days as England manager played out with almost inevitable sadness that will be familiar to his predecessors.

There was maybe something of Heep’s insincerity in Hodgson’s words when he said: “We all know the English media is not an easy media to satisfy, but I can also say I think I’ve been fairly treated. I have no complaints.”

Five days earlier, he protested to reporters over having to “accept so many nonsenses” before sneering at that he should not be asked “to make stupid comments”.

Events unravel, a grip that once seemed sure is slippery and another failure is chalked up. As this gnawed at him, Hodgson – the genial, idiosyncratic and likeable man of the of the world – became a tetchy, snapping grump.

On the other side of those numerous botched attempts at an equaliser, Glenn understandably focused on his dignity.

“The manner in which Roy chose to step down is in very positive contrast to what has happened with previous England managers.” he said. “I think it’s the mark of the man.”

True, but this is not an overly competitive field.

Glen Hoddle – touted in some quarters for an inexplicable England return – became the first and, as yet, only top-level football coach to pay for his job due to wayward views on reincarnation and the disabled. Kevin Keegan resigned inside a Wembley toilet cubicle.

England’s toy lions might have invited much mirth in France, but Sven Goran-Eriksson included his mascot among the playing squad for a 2006 World Cup farewell in the aftermath of the ‘fake sheikh’ scandal. A 16-year-old Theo Walcott, almost inevitably, did not play.

After Steve McClaren’s not-so-stellar umbrella came an indisputable coaching great. England stormed to the 2010 World Cup under Fabio Capello, who then surprised everyone by coaxing Jamie Carragher out of international retirement, failing to do likewise with Paul Scholes, deciding Ledley King’s knees could stand up to the rigours of tournament football and seemingly drawing his first-choice goalkeeper out of a hat.

Capello survived that debacle in South Africa but eventually went out on his shield over John Terry in 2012 – a captain he stripped of the captaincy two years earlier. 

Then came Hodgson, who followed the struggles of Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup with an unblemished qualifying campaign this time around. Naturally, he completed warm-ups for Euro 2016 with the Premier League’s two most prolific strikers on the flanks and named one natural winger in his final 23, before embarking on an absurd selection tombola.

On Tuesday, Glenn mentioned England’s perennial problem of being “brittle” at major tournaments – his warm praise of Hodgson implicitly training this accusation on players who fall short of the heights they scale at club level.

But, as the FA’s top brass begin their latest search, they should examine the case of Hodgson and his line of predecessors to work out just what it is about managing England that tears distinguished football figures so far from logic and reason.

Tue 28 Jun, 2016
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