Back at World Cup, Hodgson faces defining weeks
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Overshadowed by a floor-to-ceiling portrait of himself at England’s World Cup base, Roy Hodgson seems uneasy at finally being in the limelight with his national team.
“It has been decided by the sponsors — they want to animate everywhere we go,” Hodgson said Tuesday inside the Urca military base. “Would I want to see it removed? The answer is, ‘absolutely.’”
After a 39-year career in the dugout mostly spent outside of his homeland, Hodgson established himself as English football’s best-traveled coaches while getting little recognition for his pioneering work back home.
“No one is a prophet in his own land,” Hodgson said, invoking the Bible. “I don’t really remember feeling resentful at all.”
Hodgson started his coaching career in Sweden, where, aside from a brief stint with Bristol City, he stayed 14 years until 1990 before gaining higher profile jobs, including with Inter Milan, Blackburn and Switzerland in the 1990s.
Hodgson made his mark in his homeland with Fulham, the small west London club he joined midway through the 2007-08 season and guided to its best ever Premier League finish of seventh place the following year and a place in the 2010 Europa League Final. Although he endured an unsuccessful six-month stint at Liverpool, West Bromwich Albion handed Hodgson a swift chance to re-establish his reputation in the Premier League before England came calling before the 2012 European Championship.
While Hodgson’s exploits seemed to go unnoticed for so many years before then, he was satisfied with the acclaim he enjoyed in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Italy.
“I just accepted the fact that I left very, very young, totally unknown as a player and as a coach,” Hodgson said. “I think I was just happy and pleased that I was able to fulfil an ambition to become a coach that was recognized and even appreciated in certain countries.
“I don’t think I ever looked back and thought, ‘I wish this was in England’, but of course I’m really happy that it’s England now.”
It’s the insular approach that led to Hodgson’s achievements beyond the British Isles largely being overlooked, winning eight league titles in two countries with three clubs and coaching Switzerland, Finland and the United Arab Emirates.
“We have an island mentality — that is the people we are,” said Hodgson’s England assistant, Ray Lewington. “We think it all starts and ends with the Premier League. Anyone who’s not worked in the Premier League, regardless of what success they have had, we think it’s irrelevant because it’s not English football.
“Roy has an under-stated manner, anyway. So perhaps people didn’t really know him. He has a very good CV but at first, people might not have got behind him simply because they didn’t know him.”
Having finally reached the pinnacle of English football management, the 66-year-old Hodgson’s career appears to have come full circle.
“I suppose the problem with saying that is that I don’t want the circle to end,” Hodgson said. “I want the circle to carry on.”
The affable, multilingual Londoner is back at the World Cup 20 years after leading Switzerland to its first major tournament since 1966 in the United States.
“How does it feel this time by comparison? I think I feel calmer, more in control,” Hodgson said. “In 20 years you’ve got to hope you have evolved in some way and all the experiences, all the work you are doing during in that time is actually paying some sort of dividend and you are improving rather than deteriorating.
“The only danger as you get old in the coaching profession is that you lose some of your energy or enthusiasm or vitality,” Hodgson added. “I’d like to think, and others would have to judge, I’ve haven’t lost any of those qualities.”
Hodgson is under contract with the Football Association until after the 2016 European Championship, but surviving in the job would be tough if England didn’t make it out of a difficult group that features Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica.”
“I’ve got a lot of time for Roy — I’m a big fan,” Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said Tuesday.
But asked if Hodgson is certain to stay after the World Cup, Dyke responded: “Who knows? He’s contracted to (2016). We wouldn’t want to discuss what happens to him afterwards because this is the moment when things should be going well.”
Whatever happens in the coming weeks in Brazil, however much he dislikes it, Hodgson knows his career could be defined by the public in the coming weeks.
“I’ll accept that because I live in the real world but it won’t define anything for me,” Hodgson said. “My 39 years for me, which will hopefully go on to 40 and maybe even 45 who knows, I’ll always define them in terms of what I think I’ve done and how I think I have achieved or otherwise.”
Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris