9 Jun 2014

When Roy Hodgson was ‘a kind of god’ (1994)

Managing England is not the easiest job in the world, as Roy Hodgson knows. But in 1994, having led the Swiss to their first World Cup finals in 28 years, Hodgson was a popular man in Switzerland.

Despite the fact that England under Graham Taylor failed to qualify for the tournament in the USA, there were two English managers at the 1994 World Cup: Jack Charlton, with the Republic of Ireland, and Roy Hodgson, writes Ian Searcey.

Apart from three years at Bristol City, former Crystal Palace youth player and journeyman non-league defender Hodgson had cut his managerial teeth in Sweden, winning five league titles with Malmo, and then Neuchatel Xamax in Switzerland, before taking over the Swiss national side in 1992.

Having failed to qualify for a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup, the Swiss under Hodgson lost only one game in qualification from a group that included Italy, Portugal and Scotland, and in June 1994 found themselves training in Detroit ahead of the opening game against the host nation. Unsurprisingly, as Bill Neely found out for ITN, this made Roy from Croydon quite popular in Switzerland.

Having learnt French and German, Hodgson (“A kind of god”, claims one fan) maintained that part of his mystique depended on the fact that the Swiss journalists could not understand most of what he said, so “they can’t write anything”.

Switzerland made it out their group, drawing 1-1 with the United States, beating Romania 3-1, and losing 2-0 to Colombia. In the last 16, they lost 3-0 to Spain.

After ensuring qualification for Euro 96 with ease, Hodgson left the Swiss for Inter Milan. After Inter, he resumed his nomadic managerial journey in Denmark and Norway, followed by stints at Blackburn Rovers and the UAE, before returning to the Premier League with Fulham, Liverpool (a disastrous six months), and then West Bromwich Albion.

Twenty years on, 2014 sees him back at the World Cup with a different team. Can he lead England to the final?