Martin Samuel: Out to get them No, we don't hound managers, we just want results
22:36 GMT, 30 April 2012
Football journalism. It's a results business. Just like football, really.
When Arsene Wenger took over at Arsenal, he was greeted with headlines asking ‘Arsene Who’ He answered that with a title or two, and now everybody knows his name.
Compelling evidence in football arrives not just year by year, but week by week, and cannot be overridden by mere trenchant opinion for long. A critic may still believe Roberto Di Matteo was a dismal appointment as interim manager at Chelsea, but try to justify that, as of now.
Jobs lot: Roy Hodgson is expected to be confirmed as the England manager for Euro 2012
So this idea that Roy Hodgson can, or will, be hounded from the England job by a vengeful, embittered, southern-based press, stung that the FA have overlooked their chosen one, Harry Redknapp, really is beyond stupidity.
You know who gets England managers the sack Players. Either ours or theirs. Ours by not being good enough, theirs by being better.
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Whatever the surface reason for a
manager’s departure, results will have got him in the end. Win and it
does not matter what the media think, write or say. Win and everything
else is chatter.
You write your own headlines, Kevin Keegan would tell the players, and he was correct. Between two blows of the referee’s whistle, there is 90 minutes in which no pundit can interfere and if Hodgson makes his mark then, he is beyond criticism.
The honeymoon period is overplayed. No media darling has ever talked his way out of a 2-0 home defeat at Wembley. Indeed, I remember Hodgson’s verdict after England lost by that margin to Chile in the February before the 1998 World Cup finals. ‘Wembley is England’s fortress,’ he said. ‘You don’t lose at your fortress.’
Glenn Hoddle was in charge that night. He was undone by results eventually, too. History pretends he resigned after relaying a somewhat outlandish interpretation of Buddhist philosophy to a national newspaper, but that is only the half of it.
Those thoughts were first aired in a radio interview prior to the 1998 World Cup finals, but nobody cared. Hoddle was the England manager that had won Italy’s World Cup qualifying group and there was no appetite for cutting down that particular tall poppy.
Later that year, when he revisited the subject, it was on the back of an underwhelming World Cup and a poor start to the European Championship qualifying campaign. Goodbye.
Hot Spur: Harry Redknapp is perceived to be a darling of the British press
Was Hoddle hounded out by media No, he went from winning to losing. Results have done for every England manager, even Fabio Capello, who despite going a year unbeaten was never forgiven for the 2010 World Cup finals debacle.
The press view is invariably divided anyway. Hodgson’s decisions will split opinion, as Capello’s did, as Redknapp’s would have. Yet to read some of the more outraged responses to criticism of Hodgson’s appointment, one would think the football press lived in Harry’s loft space on a diet of jellied eels.
Any resistance to Hodgson is a southern media conspiracy. Truth is, there is no collusion, no cabal, no convergence of interests.
As for geographical bias, where do you think Croydon, Hodgson’s birthplace, is Here’s the reality: of the nine chief football writers at the national newspapers, four are based in London and the South East, two in Manchester and one each in Liverpool, the East Midlands and West Yorkshire.
Hounded out, or not that good Glen Hoddle
As for club allegiances, three support Liverpool and the others variously follow Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United, Fulham, Arsenal, Nottingham Forest and Manchester United. Nobody supports West Ham United or comes from east London.
Provincials outnumber southerners. If anything, Hodgson should be a victim of northern bias. But then how does that fit in with the Redknapp plot These conspiracy theories do not stack up.
Just maybe, there was much support for Redknapp because he was considered the obvious choice for the job: by Sir Alex Ferguson, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Martin O’Neill, Rio Ferdinand, Alan Pardew. That does not make Hodgson inadequate; just, in many minds, the second choice.
And this is what so many seem unable to understand. It is quite possible to rate Hodgson, but not support his appointment as England manager; just as it is possible to appreciate the job David Moyes has done at Everton, without considering him the most suitable successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
The support for Redknapp was nuanced, not knee-jerk, because it took into account the demands of this particular job; the need to knit a squad together in a short space of time, the delicacy of the issues around the Ferdinand brothers and John Terry and with the break-up of Europe into smaller nations, the number of matches in which England need to make the play and go out to attack.
Redknapp fitted that bill. The idea that media men liked him simply because he is good for a one-liner is facile. If that was the case, Fleet Street would still be behind Graham Taylor. We’ve just done four years with a man who spoke in six-word sentences and he was loved until the 2010 World Cup campaign went bust.
This season, Hodgson has taken to banging his head against the dug-out roof and threw a black armband of remembrance to the floor in disgust. Believe me, we’ll get by.
Do YOU know what football writers like most A winning team. Covering winners is always more fun. Being around England at the 1996 European Championship was a joy; following the doomed qualifying campaign for Euro 2008 was excruciating. On the road with Capello en route to South Africa: happy camping. Once in Rustenburg: holidays in hell.
How to make friends and alienate people: Fabio Capello endured an indifferent relationship with the press, but fell on his sword because results weren't good enough
So nobody wants Hodgson to fail. Many firmly believe England should be managed by an Englishman but, once Capello was appointed, the manager was taken on his merits.
And Hodgson has merit, no doubt of that. International experience, European experience, age on his side — national management is an older man’s game, because younger coaches get bored — and an admired and thorough coach.
Yet the fact remains his greatest success has come in jobs with limited expectation and, with England, expectation is huge. Far bigger than what he faced at Liverpool, or Inter Milan. This is where he has struggled in the past.
If the FA sought Hodgson’s involvement in the Burton-on-Trent project, as is claimed, they should have dumped the various elite and development experts, and used their salaries to pay Hodgson a proper wage, making him technical director. Effectively, he would have been Redknapp’s boss.
So there was most certainly a major job for Hodgson at the FA; just not necessarily the one he was discussing on Monday. Still, never mind.