Not only has Roy Hodgson seen the man who he pipped to the most coveted spot English football claim that Hodgson’s current employers are “clueless” and wouldn’t be able to identify a good manager if he hit them in the face, the former Fulham manager has also the rather pressing matter of negotiating England’s remaining two fixtures.
Hodgson has claimed it would “unthinkable” for England to fail to qualify for next summer’s World Cup, a statement whose defiance is only matched by Hodgson’s knowledge that, were the unthinkable to become reality, he’d likely be the first casualty.
While club managers are judged on August to May basis, the England manager is largely a two-year job, with a final review arriving after the European Championships/World Cup or, in the most unfortunate cases, immediately after England’s last qualifying match.
Having been handed what in cricket would have been described as a free hit at the 2012 European Championships, Hodgson knows failure to reach Brazil would seal his fate, in typically swift, unceremonious, fashion.
It might not have to be surrounded by the same national outrage that accompanied Steve McClaren’s departure following Scott Carson’s howler against Croatia, nor is it likely to be immortalised on celluloid like Graham Taylor’s England defeat against Holland in 1993, but Hodgson is likely to be handed a one-way ticket if England fail to qualify.
And a right decision, it would be too.
The England manager’s tenure in charge of the national team has hardly been one to remember, with his team often blamed for lacking creativity and adopting tactics many deem to conservative but while a lukewarm approach could be tolerated for results’ sake, were England to be knocked out, Hodgson would be almost certainly hang out to dry.
Luckily for Hodgson, and unluckily for English football, the potential replacements are at a premium but even a paucity of credible successors should not extend Hodgson’s reign in charge of the national team, were England to fail to reach the World Cup.
For all the hype surrounding the Premier League and the last members of the Golden Generation, Hodgson has a scarceness of world class talent at his disposal, which perhaps partly explains his cautious approach.
Throughout his tenure in charge of the national side, however, the England manager has never taken the bold approach many had hope he would, for failure always tastes somewhat sweeter after a brave shot at glory.
England have been rather distant from that approach, failing to beat any of Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro so far and only winning against Group H’s whipping boys San Marino and Moldova.
It’s not entirely Hodgson’s fault either that England do not entertain, nor do they look credible challengers for next summer’s trophy.
However, England have not moved forward under Hodgson, trapped in his outdated and over-pragmatic style of play which has always had his team out to look in the rearview mirror, rather than focusing on the road ahead.
The next five days will determine whether the cautious approach has secured a trouble-free drive or has caused a fatal crash.