Harry or Hodgson? Or neither. Recently after Harry Redknapp now of Spurs, seemed an unopposed racing certainty for the now vacant job of England team manager, the name of Roy Hodgson has been mentioned.
Here I must declare an interest; I have known both men for a good many years but count Roy Hodgson as an old friend. Both managers are now in their sixties but these days it doesn’t seem to make much difference. I remember when Bela Guttman, whom I also knew well from his managerial days in Italy, twice in succession won the European Cup with Benfica he was 62-years-old but was wont to joke when asked his age, “I’m 24.”
Harry Redknapp has gained greater than ever popularity since he won his criminal court case on a charge of tax evasion. Like many thousands of others I was delighted that he was acquitted but I still found it difficult to make any sense of a case which was said to cost somewhat ludicrously between eight and ten million pounds. An aggressive prosecution accused Harry of lying to which he replied that he was initially and deliberately lying to the News of the World reporter Rob Beasley but telling the truth – which prosecuting counsel denied – in court. He had, it may be remembered, banked a large sum of money in Monaco in the name of his dog.
In the event, the jury believed him and not the prosecution and he left the court blessedly a free man. Though it was hard to square what one knew of him over the years with his assertion that he was a naïve figure, baffled by figures, who found it hard even to write a letter. Which hasn’t stopped him being seen in the game as a supreme wheeler-dealer, a category he strongly denies, making so much money that he has a huge house on the coast at Sandbanks.
There is no doubt that he has had consistent and deserved success at various clubs, especially at West Ham where he was once an outside right of modest abilities – later to be surpassed by his son – Portsmouth and now Spurs. But the lonely life of an international team manager might not suit him remotely as well as the day to day hustle and bustle of club management, with the colossal pressures and demands of running an England team which hasn’t really had a successful manager since Alf Ramsey.
By contrast, Roy Hodgson has not only managed a string of clubs with varying success, but has had the intense international experience which Harry lacks. I’ve known him well since he was managing Inter and the reason he had that job was that he was hugely admired by the late Giacinto Facchetti once Inter and Italy’s marauding left back, but by then, a senior figure in their hierarchy. Giacinto as he told me when I used to watch Hodgson’s training sessions with him had been immensely impressed by the Swedish team Malmo’s European Cup displays against Inter whom they knocked out on the second occasion.
Achievements which have not been mentioned in certain long analyses of Hodgson’s career. In the end the pressures of managing Inter with the ferocious press attention drove him out, though the owner, Moratti, significantly brought him back as a consultant. Above all he did great things with the unfancied Switzerland whom he took all the way to the USA World Cup finals of 1994. It was then that I was strongly suggesting he should manage England but it didn’t happen and that was rather a long time ago.
Here in England, he had a difficult time at Blackburn and much more recently a thin time at Liverpool where the sentimental fans longed for the return of Kenny Dalglish, which has happened; with very mixed effects. At Fulham Hodgson went all the long way to the Europa final. Now at West Bromwich Albion he has revitalised the team. Criticisms that his coaching is excessive seem carping; they worked so well at Inter. Harry doesn’t coach. With England, anyway, there’s little time.
By Brian Glanville