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Old 30-04-2012, 01:40 AM
fred tissue
Default Roy Hodgson has taken a roundabout path towards the England job

Sweden, Italy, Switzerland and the UAE were all stop-off points, mostly before his arrival in the Premier League

For Roy Hodgson the chance to become England manager completes a nomadic journey that started 36 years ago, when he took charge of the Swedish club Halmstads and, in a sign of things to come, showed a talent for defying expectations with an unfancied club. "On the first day of the season 20 newspapers said Halmstads would go down," Hodgson would later recall. "We won the championship in style."

That first break into management came at the age of 28, five years after Hodgson had qualified for his full coaching badge, and owed much to his close friendship with Bob Houghton, the former Malmo manager he had lined up alongside at Maidstone in a largely forgettable playing career.

In the dugout, however, he proved to be a natural and won a second title with Halmstads in 1979. Although it was a mistake to join Houghton at Bristol City in 1980, when the club were in financial meltdown, Hodgson soon got his career back on track in Sweden, where he managed Oddevold and Orebro before moving on to Malmo, where he won five successive championships.

After a couple of years in charge of Neuchâtel Xamax Hodgson was appointed Switzerland manager. Switzerland qualified for the 1994 World Cup under him, which was more than England managed to do, and went on to reach the last 16. At one point during his tenure Switzerland were ranked third in the world.

Although Hodgson secured Switzerland's place at Euro 96, he left before the tournament started to take over at Internazionale, in what was his first job in a major European league.

He failed to win any silverware – Inter finished third in Serie A and reached the Uefa Cup final, where they lost to Schalke on penalties – but Hodgson remains highly respected at the Italian club, where he endured a few experiences that should stand him in good stead once he is wearing the Football Association blazer. "There were autopsies after every game," he recalled.

Blackburn Rovers came calling in 1997 but after a promising first season, which saw Hodgson lead the club to sixth place and qualification for Europe, things turned sour at the start of the following campaign and Hodgson was dismissed, prompting him to take a five-month break from football that still ranks as the longest period of time he has been out of the game.

By the time Hodgson returned to English football some nine years later, with Fulham, he had been back to Inter in a caretaker role, managed Grasshopper in Switzerland, won a Danish title with FC Copenhagen, coached Udinese back in Italy, performed miracles with the Norwegian side Viking Stavanger and taken charge of two national teams, Finland and the United Arab Emirates. Not that the latter job was one that he cherished. "That was a period where I didn't know where my career was going," Hodgson has said of the two years he spent in the UAE, between 2002 and 2004.

At Craven Cottage Hodgson could easily have found himself in charge of a Championship club six months after he was appointed but a remarkable end to the 2007-08 season saw Fulham pick up 12 points from their last five matches to avoid relegation from the Premier League. Hodgson and Fulham never looked back. They finished seventh in the Premier League the following season and reached the Uefa Cup final 12 months later, knocking out Juventus memorably en route only to be beaten 2-1 by Atlético Madrid in extra-time in Hamburg.

Hodgson was flavour of the month. He was voted the League Managers' Association manager of the year by a record margin and there was a sense that the talent that had long been appreciated in other parts of Europe was finally being recognised at home.

Rafael Benítez's departure from Anfield in the summer of 2010 made Hodgson the obvious choice to take over at Liverpool at the time, although it turned out to be a chastening experience for a man who had long waited for a crack at one of English football's top clubs.

Under Hodgson Liverpool made their worst start to a season since they were relegated in 1953-54. There was turmoil in the boardroom at the start of his reign, humiliating home defeats against Blackpool and Northampton to endure on the pitch and Kenny Dalglish's stalking presence in the background.

After being sacked after six months at Anfield Hodgson planned to take a breather from football only to be quickly enticed back by West Bromwich Albion, where he heralded a turnaround in fortunes, taking the club from the brink of the relegation zone to an 11th-placed finish.

This season could be even better.

Stuart James

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