And so it is Hodgson, not Harry. An FA decision which with certain distinguished exceptions, notably Terry Venables, who got the England job which could well have gone to Hodgson in 1994, has been greeted by an avalanche of outrage in the media; and angry scepticism among tens of thousands of fans. Yet as one who has known, liked and admired Hodgson for many years, I feel the right choice has been made and that Harry, who has taken the news gracefully – and it could be with a certain inner sense of relief – is essentially a shrewd, effective, commercially adept club manager, whose qualities are best suited to the role he occupies at present.
For me, Hodgson should have been given the England role rather than Terry Venables in 1994. When he was fresh from the World Cup finals in the USA to which he had so surprisingly and impressively guided little, unfancied Switzerland. In the process, humiliating mighty Italy in the group qualifiers. In Cagliari, the Swiss went into a sensational 2-0 lead and the azzurri only with great trouble managed to make it a 2-2 draw. But in Berne in the return game, it was the Swiss who won 1-0. Even if, in America, they disappeared after the first stage with a win a loss and a draw while the azzurri, one strenuous way and another, somehow got all the way to the final, where they lost only on penalties to the Brazilians.
Hodgson is 18 years older now and plainly not at the apex of his managerial career, but he is still a devoted coach – where Harry isn’t known to coach – as I so well remember him to be when I spent time with him out at Appiano Gentile where Inter have their ample training grounds. There I remember watching Roy meticulously put his players through their paces, watched with huge admiration by Giacinto Facchetti, not much earlier the towering attacking left back for Italy and Inter, frequent scorer of goals with his powerful right foot.
Giacinto had become a devoted fan of Hodgson since Inter had come up twice against Malmo, managed by Roy, in the European Cup. In the first occasion Malmo, under the aegis of Hodgson, narrowly went out to Inter. On the second occasion, they knocked Internazionale out.
Roy had several happy and successful years in Sweden, first with Halmstad then Malmo. He began well at Inter, but early in his second season there he was distressed and upset by the pressures of the press to which it might be said that, however explicably, he over reacted.
A spell in charge of Blackburn Rovers was unsuccessful. More recently, he took over the Finland international team, with notable results in the European Championship qualifiers, though not quite well enough to get through. At Liverpool, not long afterwards, it cannot be denied that things went amiss. But with Liverpool’s fans intent on bringing back Kenny Dalglish and Kenny making no secret of the fact that he wanted to come back, Roy never had much of a chance. At Fulham, previously, he had performed small miracles, first saving them from which seemed inevitable relegation, then getting them, from deep in July, all the way to the final of the Europa Cup final.
Most recently at West Bromwich Albion, he has performed the difficult task of keeping a team of moderate abilities – always excepting Peter Odemwingie – well clear of relegation. Taking over England, he arguably has the advantage of not over much being expected of a team which will miss its star turn Wayne Rooney for its first two European games. Harry meanwhile, having triumphantly routed the prosecution at his trial, inexplicably failing to substitute the struggling centre back William Gallas against Chelsea at Wembley seeing Spurs slip away in the concluding games of the season, architect of those superb displays against Milan in the European Cup, he remains as a supreme wheeler dealer, much though he hates the description, immensely wiser, shrewder and more worldly wise than he ever claimed to be in court, I feel he would always be happier at club level.
The life of an international team manager is, after all, essentially a lonely and sporadic one, the intense human contact with players denied him, except for brief weeks in the finals of tournaments. It was meanwhile Sir Christopher Wren who said of St Paul’s; “If you want to see my monument, look about you.” Harry, for his part, can point to his grandiose house in Sandbanks, and the FA will now reportedly save themselves the bagatelle of £10 million. Harry is arguably worth much more than that to Tottenham.