West Brom’s Hodgson in talks for ‘pinnacle of success’

Roy Hodgson was unexpectedly approached about filling the England coaching vacancy on Sunday, with the well-travelled West Bromwich Albion manager opening talks about the job barely a month before Euro 2012 begins.

England’s Football Association (FA) has overlooked Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, who had been considered the favourite by the bookmakers and fans for the job since Fabio Capello quit in February.

Instead, a four-man FA committee has identified the 64-year-old Hodgson, who has coached in seven countries and led three national teams, as the man to take one of the most high-profile jobs in world sport.

The FA was granted permission on Sunday by West Brom chairperson Jeremy Peace to speak with Hodgson.

“Roy is the only manager we have approached and we remain on course to make an appointment within the timescale we set-out soon after Fabio Capello’s departure,” FA chairperson David Bernstein said in a statement. “Further conversations will now take place with Roy and my Club England colleagues before any further announcements can be made.”

‘A desire to explore this opportunity’
The FA is unlikely to have to pay West Brom compensation to hire Hodgson, since his club contract expires on June 30.

West Brom said on its website that Hodgson has “expressed a desire to explore this opportunity” with England.

“Roy is a proud Englishman and we can understand why he wants to speak to the FA about this highly prestigious managerial position,” Peace said. “However, we have emphasised to Roy how much we would like him to remain as our head coach and continue his major contribution to our project at The Hawthorns.”

Hodgson said in March that while his career ambitions had been “fulfilled many years ago,” he would embrace the England job if the opportunity arose.

“It is the pinnacle of success in a way and certainly a pinnacle of coaching success if ever you’re invited to manage your own country,” Hodgson told Talk Sport radio. “I’ve managed other countries but I’ve never been invited to manage my own. It would be an honour but I don’t have it set out as an ambition as such.”

Former England striker Alan Smith said he was “staggered” that Hodgson had been approached by the FA.

“We all thought Harry Redknapp would get the nod,” Smith told Sky Sports News TV.

‘Second to none’
In a 36-year coaching career, Hodgson has had spells in England, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Italy, where Hodgson was twice in charge of Inter Milan.

He also coached Finland, the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland, and acted as a technical adviser to European soccer governing body Uefa.

“His experience is second to none which I think is fantastic … he has so much knowledge about football — football is his life,” former England defender Kenny Sansom told Sky TV. “He has everything to offer … he is a very calm guy. He doesn’t get too excited.”

England’s Euro 2012 opener is against France on June 11 before completing the group stage against Sweden and co-host Ukraine.

“He will relax the players because it is a big championship,” Sansom said. “He will get to know the players very quickly because of his wealth of experience.”

Hodgson started his coaching career in Sweden, where, aside from a brief stint with Bristol City, he stayed 14 years until 1990. After winning the Swedish championship with Halmstad and Malmo, Hodgson moved to Switzerland’s Neuchatel Xamax and then the national team.

The Swiss had not reached a major tournament since 1966, but Hodgson took them to the 1994 World Cup and also the 1996 European Championship, where they exited in the first round but did manage a creditable 1-1 draw with host England.

Switzerland’s World Cup run and its success in Euro 96 qualifying landed him a job in 1995 at Inter Milan, where he reached the Uefa Cup final in 1997, before departing for Blackburn.

Rovers were in a state of disrepair as their 1995 Premier League-winning side was being dismantled, but Hodgson managed to qualify for the Uefa Cup before being fired after a poor start to the 1998/99 season.

Spells at Grasshoppers, FC Copenhagen, Udinese, the United Arab Emirates national side and Viking FK followed before he took unheralded Finland to the brink of qualification for Euro 2008.

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 finish of seventh place the following year.

He was voted manager of the year for 2009-10 by the League Managers Association for taking the Cottagers to the Europa League final.

Restored reputation
Hodgson was subsequently lured to Liverpool, where he endured an unsuccessful six-month stint before being fired in January 2011.

But West Brom handed Hodgson a swift chance to re-establish his reputation a month later and he repaid the club’s faith in him by keeping the club in the Premier League. West Brom is 10th in the standings with two matches to go this season.

“Roy has done a fantastic job over the past 15 months and the fact the FA want to discuss the England role with him is testament to that,” West Brom’s Peace said.

“Everyone here has an excellent working relationship with him and he is immensely popular with our supporters,” he added. — Sapa-AP

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