Sunday, 6 May 2012

In praise of Roy Hodgson

Unlike the tabloid press, I was extremely pleased to hear the news earlier this week, that Roy Hodgson had got the England job. I met Roy when I was living in Sweden in the early 1980's. It was unusual at the time to meet other English people in the dark Baltic winters and so if you did you ended up having a chat. At the time I was 19. Football has always been my second love behind music. Roy was probably the first person I ever had an intelligent conversation about football with. Roy explained many of the flaws in the English system. He explained the Dutch are so much technically better players and why England were unlikely to ever win the world cup without a long term plan to improve the technical quality of players. He estimated that it would take a minimum of 16 years to address they problems in England, if they started tomorrow. I wonder if his views have changed and he shared them with the FA.

At the time Roy had managed a couple of clubs I'd never heard of in a foreign country. He was just a bloke I'd had an interesting chat with when I was having a night out. I was struck by the fact that he could explain the technical issues surrounding football to a 19 year old who'd only played park football, in a way that made perfect sense. He was clearly very clued up on it, yet was passionate enough to want to ensure I understood the issues. He didn't talk down and listened to what I had to say about my own experiences of football at school (which I'd recently left). He was also interested to hear about my experience of meeting former Manchester City and England manager Joe Mercer. I was just a kid then, it was 1970 and I was totally overawed. Joe Mercer was like a nice uncle. At the time I was a goalie and he gave me a couple of tips, signed a rosette and bought me a cake. My dad had arranged for me to meet him at the "football hall of fame" as a birthday treat.My Dad knew someone at the FA. Also present was ex England star Billy Wright and his wife, a Beverly sister. My Dad wasn't a football fan but was totally made up to meet a Beverly sister. He also talked cricket with Billy Wright.

I hope that Roy was wrong about England. I hope he wins the European Championships and then the World Cup with us. The abuse managers such as Graham Taylor and Glen Hoddle got from the press was sickening. These were both honest, decent men doing their best. I would suggest that anyone who is interested in Football reads Paul McGraths biography about how Graham Taylor managed him and protected him from the press, through his alcoholism. Taylor is a thoroughly decent man. The vile press coverage simply made his job untenable. I doubt that Roy would even recall the meeting. I did invite him to see the False Dots when they played in Stockholm, but he didn't make it down. He said "punk rock isn't really my thing but I'll stop by if I can". The man is a gent. He deserves our support, whatever happens. The destruction of decent men, doing their best to get the team to perform is perhaps the most off putting thing about football. That is reason number one that I'd never buy the Sun. Maybe we should get the 100 other reasons?

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