1 May 2012

Roy Hodgson urges England fans to support him

Roy Hodgson urges fans and players to get behind him as the FA confirms his appointment as England manager.

Having been criticised by Liverpool fans during a difficult tenure at Anfield, Mr Hodgson said he was prepared for the job of winning fans over. “I’m prepared for criticism. The fact is I took it at Liverpool and I’ll take it here.”

But he added that he hoped for the backing of both players and fans. “It’s important the players buy into what we do, and that the country buy into what we’re trying to do. I’m expecting a lot of support from everybody.

“I’m hoping everyone in England gets behind their football team, because we want to give this country the successful football team we’ve been waiting for since 1966.”

The West Bromwich Albion coach takes over from caretaker manager Stuart Pearce at the end of the season and will fulfil his remaining fixtures with the club.

The appointment follows Fabio Capello’s resignation as England boss in February after a disagreement over the FA’s decision to strip John Terry of the captaincy. Hodgson, who has managed 16 different teams in eight countries, was linked with the job on Monday when West Brom agreed to allow him to talk to the FA.

On Monday the Football Association revealed that Hodgson was the only person it had contacted, dashing many fans’ hopes that Harry Redknapp would succeed Fabio Capello.

It is the first time that the FA has appointed a manager with prior international experience.

David Bernstein, chair of the FA, said that experience can help England with their preparation for championships.

Hodgson takes up the job ahead of a busy summer for English players with the European Championship in June and an Olympic football tournament staring in July involving players from all parts of the UK.

His international experience includes a spell playing and coaching at a club in apartheid South Africa.

A journalist has told Channel 4 News about playing under Hodgson during his time at Berea Park in South Africa’s whites-only National Football League.

International experience

In England, Hodgson has also managed Blackburn and Fulham, before his job at Liverpool.

Domestic achievements included qualifying for the UEFA cup with Blackburn and retaining relegation-threatened Fulham’s Premier League status in 2008. He was voted manager of the year by the League Managers’ Association the following year.

Hodgson’s career has included silverware at Swedish club Malmo and Denmark’s Copenhagen, who won the Danish title in 2000-01.

He already has international experience from managing Switzerland, where he took a unfancied side to the last 16 at the 1994 World Cup finals the 1996 European championships, and Finland.

Hodgson has also achieved success on the European stage taking Inter Milan to the Uefa Cup final in 1997 and Fulham to the Europa League final in 2010.

However both times his teams were beaten in the final.

South Africa

But there is a period in his development as a manager that has been less well documented. While his first job in management was at Sweden’s Halmstad he actually started his coaching career in Pretoria, South Africa.

South Africa-based journalist Neal Collins, told Channel 4 News Sports Reporter Keme Nzerem that he was one of Hodgson’s earliest products.

The new England manager, an ordinary player from non-league Ashton Town, arrived at Collins’ local club in 1973 in what was then the whites-only National Football League.

South Africa was banned by FIFA in 1961 but a range of foreign stars – including Gordon Banks, Derek Dougan, Mick Channon, Alan Ball and Johnny Haynes – played despite the apartheid sports boycott. FIFA’s ban was not lifted until 1993.

Berea Park were a very average team in a league dominated at the time by foreign players unwelcome in FIFA-sanctioned countries.

Big names

“Roy turned up kind of late in that when really a politically sussed person would not have come here. It wasn’t politically correct to come to South Africa in the 70s because by then it was building up to the Soweto crisis… and South Africa was banned from the Olympics, from international cricket.

“So there can be criticism levelled at Roy for coming but at the time he was 24 or 25 and he started off at Palace, he was at Gravesend and Maidstone. Then he came out here and was a star because he was English.”

Other big names who came out at around the same time included Rodney Marsh, who was brought on a tour organised by Jimmy Hill.

The National Football League (NFL) was the first professional association football league in South Africa. It was established in 1959 during the apartheid era, and no black, “coloured” or “Indian” players were allowed to participate.

When NFL folded after 18 years in 1977, it was superseded by a non-racial league following a merger happened between NFL and NPSL, the league for non-whites.

By then, Hodgson was at Halmstad where Mr Collins says he went on to transform Swedish football, along with his colleague Bobby Houghton. This was despite taking Berea Park to relegation under his charge.

“It was quite ironic,” recalls Mr Collins. “I think he learnt a lot of the things he put into practice in Sweden in South Africa.”

He added that it would be fascinating to see how Hodgson copes with such a high-profile role and big name players, adding that Wayne Rooney could prove challenging for him.