December 20th: The 20th managerial reign of Liverpool belongs to Roy Hodgson, a period we all remember ever so fondly, right? In the latest TBT Advent Calendar article, Breakfast Percy takes an in depth look at The Hodge.
“How many clubs have I had in 35 years? What do you mean, do my methods translate? They translated from Halmstads to Malmo to Orebro to Neuchâtel Xamax to the Swiss national team.” Roy Hodgson
Neuchâtel Xamax- I’m pretty sure the first part is French for Newcastle, and the second a prescription medication. That’s ironic really, because pumped full of meds is the only way to experience the Geordie city. Careful though, you don’t want to wake up staring down the barrel of Alan Pardew’s chocolate starfish next to the other sixth-form girls. ‘Pards’ slips on a leopard skin kimono and cracks open a vitamin water, ‘don’t be a stranger’ he purrs as you taste your own sick. The room lurches a little and you tumble back into that black hole, unconscious.
It’s Halmstad mid-seventies, 1976 to be precise, and Bjorn Borg has just started knocking the absolute tits off a tennis ball. A young man by the name of Roy Hodgson strides off the boat and into Swedish hearts. A fully qualified coach, and now recommended by the FA’s star pupil Bob Houghton, we assume this is little more like the ‘book learned’ Roy Hodgson of England fame, than the Roy Hodgson who three years earlier ignored an Apartheid sporting boycott on South Africa to play football in Pretoria.
‘I was desperate to play football on a full-time basis’ said Hodgson in 2012.
I believe top scorer Nelson Mandela was out with shin splints at the time.
Roy did well in Sweden, that cannot be denied. His epochal four years at Halmstads BK is a time he still refers to as a ‘water-into-wine job’, transforming semi-pro relegation candidates with his trademark flat back four. England’s World Cup win ten years earlier had actually already popularized the 4-4-2 in much of Europe, but the Swedes had clearly not yet had that message passed along their string-and-cup telephone system. ‘English Roy’ must have felt like Mr Coca Cola on his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa.
The initial success of this formula no doubt explains its longevity. Hodgson travelled all across Europe managing all sorts of different clubs, exporting exactly the same template football. The biggest of these appointments was Internazionale, whom he took over in 1995. Unfortunately, and despite his courageous efforts to the contrary, a dearth of talent scuppered Hodgey’s chances. ‘We lacked stars, apart from Paul Ince’, said Hodgson, carefully ignoring Roberto Carlos, Youri Djorkaeff, Javier Zannetti, Iván Zamorano, and the rest.
From Internazionale Hodgson went to Blackburn, a job he felt unfairly tarnished his reputation in England:
“Of course, my track record, if people bothered to study it, would put me in the same category as [Sir Alex] Ferguson enjoys today, but people don’t talk about what I’ve done outside England.”
At the time Hodgson made those comments (2002), Ferguson was on the way to his eighth Premier League title, had won four FA Cups, one League Cup, and the UEFA Champions League, and the only thing Roy and Sir Alex shared was a bath. Still, in terms of pure years in the game, I will admit there’s a similarity. Say what you like about Roy Hodgson (and I will), but the man has racked up clubs:
“How many clubs have I had in 35 years? What do you mean, do my methods translate? They translated from Halmstads to Malmo to Orebro to Neuchâtel Xamax to the Swiss national team.”
Why so many clubs? Some say he was running from a broken heart; Henry Winter declined to comment. Others say it is just because he is oh-so-very old. Either way, such a journeyman of the modern game was bound to return to English shores. It was Fulham who gave him that chance, and it was Fulham who set in motion the most heinous series of events since Billy Ray Cyrus used an Everton shirt as a makeshift prophylactic.
Yeah fucking cheers for that Fulham, you sopping wet gang of Michael Jackson-encouraging bell-whiffs.
Roy Hodgson was back in English football. He did alright at Fulham, did Roy- you may have heard about it briefly in one or two major news publications at the time. Liverpool, fighting off-field battles and extremely weak-willed, sacked Rafa Benitez. On the back of his time at Fulham, Liverpool brought in Hodgson to ‘steady the ship’. And Hodgson steadied that ship in much the same way Paul Walker steadied his Porsche at 100mph.
It started with Joe Cole. I’ll be fair to Roy here, and admit that Joe Cole was not his signing. Still, it’s hard not think that Cole at least reminded Hodgson of his two years in charge of the United Arab Emirates (2002-04). ‘They’re basically lazy’ said Hodgson with all the Daily Mail eloquence of Nigel Farage, ‘[and] most coaches who go there (UAE) are just fannying around, but it’s not my nature.’ Don’t worry Roy, nobody’s ever thought if there was fanny that you’d be around it. You are to muff what @indykaila is truth. Well, you are to muff what @indykaila is to muff. Does a mean popcorn chicken though.
Christian Poulsen was one of the next brought in to help enforce Roy’s brand of football. Liverpool fans really were spoilt rotten. Watching Christian Poulsen play football was like having John Cross stare into your eyes as he applies umlauts to your testicles. If Poulsen was a horse they’d have put him down twice just to make sure.
Paul Konchesky was also signed, and was someone Roy knew well from his time at Fulham. Paul was a player whose most remarkable attribute was that he wasn’t naturally as bald as he looked. His Mum, on the other hand, took to Facebook to criticize Scousers in a manner that suggested she had been huffing glue to Jeremy Kyle reruns. But hey, we all love a Wednesday morning.
Evidently Konchesky was the type of defender Hodgson wanted, and perhaps he’d have achieved that flat back four he dreamed of had everyone bought into his methods. It was a shame for Roy that there were a few stick-in-the-muds, and he found probably his greatest opposition in Daniel Agger.
Agger is a footballer’s footballer, and his insistence on playing it out from the back eventually left Roy so frustrated that he yelled at the Dane ‘just fucking hoof it’. Telling Daniel Agger to ‘just fucking hoof it’ is like Charles Saatchi asking Nigella ‘do you need a full gram just to get through a fucking omlette?’ It’s not right, let the artist do their thing. Watch Agger majestically cruise out from the back like a sexy, tattooed iceberg and tell me there’s a player who should be ‘hoofing’ it! Hodgson doesn’t like his players to pass the ball so much as abort it.
‘How did it go?’ those with short memories might ask? Well, Hodgson’s Liverpool team began an arresting slide down the league table. Hodgson’s face was already doing likewise, and by this time he looked like Abu Hamza had had a go at the clay model in the video for Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’. Not only did Konchesky, Cole, and Poulsen all prove to be shite, but combined with a crap squad and Hodgey’s methods they had all the coherence of Michael J Fox’s calligraphy.
The worse Liverpool played, the more Hodgson frustratedly rubbed his face. The more he rubbed his face, the more it looked like Hedwig was drowning in Dumbledore’s scrotum. Whilst this continued longer than anyone could have hoped, it was not quite long enough that Liverpool fans did a Jonestown. It was a close call, but with Liverpool four points clear of the relegation zone, Roy Hodgson finally left Liverpool by ‘mutual consent’.
And so, with the notion of ‘consent’, we are back to Alan Pardew and appear, confused, on the other side of the shrubbery maze. The ship of Roy’s career steadied itself elsewhere, and I’ll assume you know he now manages England. They deserve each other. I’d like to say I wish him all the best, but that would be a terrible, terrible lie. Instead I shall remind us all that had we checked Wikipedia before he was hired, then we’d all have known that Roy Hodgson’s dad was an Everton fan.