Premature Rejection: The Fourth Estate And Roy Hodgson

By on May 2, 2012 in International Football, Latest | 15 comments

Once the announcement had been made, they acted with admirable speed. It took just two days from an announcement appearing on the Football Association’s website on Sunday afternoon for an interview to be held and, this afternoon, a press conference to follow confirming that Roy Hodgson is the new manager of the England national football team. This, however, is already a manager without a honeymoon period. The press started drawing their knives before the decision had even been formalised and, of course, long before a ball is kicked in his name by his team.

This decision, it was clear, had already been made. The job was not going to the man that the football press wanted, and the man chosen above him now seems likely to reap the full force of their ire.

Chief of the cheerleaders against him has been Martin Samuel of The Daily Mail. Samuel has managed no less than three articles of various states of caterwauling over the last forty-eight hours or so, a degree of saturation coverage which can only lead the reader towards perception that he may, perhaps, be taking all of this a little bit too personally. On Monday, he was complaining that – and it’s worth remembering before reading any of the following that the FA later confirmed that they hadn’t considered anyone else for the position at all – “Ensconced neatly in the mediocrity of mid-table, Hodgson is approachable in a way that Redknapp is not” and, without any apparent trace of irony, that “The pity for Hodgson is that, as at Liverpool, he may be rejected in the minds of many before the job has even begun.”

By Monday evening, Samuel was on the defensive. In an article disingenuously entitled, “Out to get them? No, we don’t hound managers, we just want results”, a barely coherent rant which demonstrated more or less the exact opposite of its headline. “Truth is”, he wrote, “there is no collusion, no cabal, no convergence of interests”, a statement rather undermined by the application of bizarre conspiracy theories such as claiming that the FA put in place “unquantifiable justifications” to ensure Hodgson’s appointment, claiming that “the support for Redknapp was nuanced, not knee-jerk” as the sound of knee jerking became increasingly audible in background and claiming that “The FA were too lily-livered from the start” because “The approach for Redknapp should have been made the same month that Capello quit as England manager” and accusingly asking his readership, “Do YOU know what football writers like most?” before answering what we might have presumed to have been a rhetorical question by immediately answering, “A winning team.”

The comments section below the article suggested, however, that Samuel was not particularly in tune with the public mood at all. Of the one hundred and nine comments below it, the overwhelming majority from readers was coruscating in its criticism, with one reader asking, “How on earth you have the nerve to say that the press don’t hound out managers?”, another saying that Samuel was, “clearly livid that their summer jolly around the table with ‘arry telling Bobby Moore stories from within the inner chambers of the England team setup has just been cancelled”, and another still arguing that, “So this idea that Roy Hodgson can, or will, be hounded from the England job by a vengeful, embittered, southern-based press, stung that the FA have overlooked their chosen one, Harry Redknapp, really is beyond stupidity.”  Once the appointment had been confirmed, Samuel was back on the offensive, implying that “a deafening silence on Twitter ” was the sound of footballers being “at least ambivalent about his appointment”, claiming (with reference to the current England squad) that, “he will never have had a collection of talent like that, not even at Inter Milan” and that “there really is no point taking the England job without a sense of ambition.”

Hodgson has, over the last twenty-four hours, received further tastes of what he can expect for as long as he remains in the job. At the press conference confirming his appointment yesterday, one hack chose this moment as appropriate to attempt to embarrass him by asking him about his time playing in Apartheid-era South Africa during the 1970s. It should, of course, go without saying that having made such a career decision would – or should – hardly be the moral high point of anybody’s professional life. However, to assume that the journalist asking the question was doing so out of genuine concern over the issue would, considering the timbre of the press coverage of the previous forty-eight hours, seem to be misguided. The question felt like one asked out of pure vindictiveness, a deliberate curve ball thrown in to embarrass him. He fielded the question as well as could reasonably be expected and it seems likely that any “controversy” over this forty year old story – which was no great secret even before the events of the last couple of days – will turn out to be little more than a storm in a tea cup.

The final act of derision to be thrown in his direction – for now – came courtesy of The Sun, whose front page decided that the best way to welcome the new England manager into his job by mocking his speech impediment – the excessive or incorrect pronunciation of the letter “R”, or rhotacism – with its headline. We shouldn’t expect any better from this particular rag, of course, but what the decision to run with this, of all of the headlines that they could have chosen, speaks volumes about the attitude of the press towards this appointment and what we can expect from them in the future. Even those amongst us that have doubted the press obsession with Harry Redknapp in the past will have looked upon the hatchet jobs of the last couple of days and drawn the conclusion that a majority of press utterances on the subject have not been calm and collected assessments of Roy Hodgson’s chances of succeeding as the manager of the England national team at all. The swivel-eyed blatherings of the last couple of days have only served to reinforce the belief that there are some – perhaps many – in the media who are mostly angry about their tame Premier League manager not getting the job, above any other considerations.

Redknapp, all bluster, bravado and jocularity, fitted the narrative with which much of the press likes to daub the national team, and even though he was apparently not considered for the job his presence hung around this afternoon’s press conference and will continue to do so. The press has written its narrative for Hodgson’s time in charge, asking the unanswerable question of what might have happened had Harry been in charge, and putting us all on warning of the unfunny and vaguely insulting “jokes” that will be thrown at Hodgson when England continue their near half-century old tradition of occasionally flattering to deceive before falling flat on their faces. Over the last few days, however, it has felt as if the press are not as in tune in with public opinion as they would seek to claim. It is impossible to judge where the the feelings of supporters exactly lays on the matter, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that, far from being the unanimously elected “people’s choice”, Redknapp wasn’t as universally popular a candidate for the job as some in the press tried to convince us he was. They will probably win in the fullness of time, if for no other reason that England managers always fail in the end. Over the last couple of days, however, they have demonstrated the extent to which they seek to mould public opinion rather than, as they so frequently claim, merely reflect it. It is a lesson that all football supporters would do well to remember when they claim to be the true voices of us all this summer and beyond.

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    15 Comments

  1. For me, the comment that summed the press’ attitude up perfectly was this from Martin Lipton in the Daily Mirror on Monday:

    “The nation demanded one man. The only possible contender. Mercurial. The players’ choice. The fans’ choice. Even the media choice ”

    Bless ‘em, they were only repeating what we were all saying …. strange that a quick straw poll in my office on Monday suggested that “The Nation’s Choice” was in fact about “20% of The Nation’s Choice”. Perhaps I should have asked the question at Fortress Wapping?

    Dermot O'Dreary

    May 2, 2012

  2. “Do YOU know what football writers like most?”

    Yes, I do. They like scandal & negative stories, because it’s difficult to write attention-grabbing headlines about good news.

    To pretend otherwise is a complete insult to their readership.

    Sean

    May 2, 2012

  3. What a great article and very good insight into the pitiful attempts by the garbage press to undermine a great guy, brilliant coach and the very best England could hope for in their attempt to get their ‘Football’ industry back on track after years of decline. What has happy Harry ever won without bankrupting the clubs he worked at?
    One FA cup, with borrowed cash and where are Pompey now? It took Southampton and West Ham years to recover from his ‘wheeling and dealing’.
    Roy on the other hand works hard with what he’s got and builds a team without extravagance, being reliant on his coaching skills and attention to detail. He’s been there and done it!

    Alan Jones

    May 2, 2012

  4. And there was I thinking that the press hounded out England’s most successful manager (on match record) to get an English manager in. Wasn’t aware the criteria was actually ‘an English manager with the initials HR’.

    Personally, I thought Roberto Di Matteo would have been perfect, for Euro 2012 at least.

    Tim Vickerman

    May 2, 2012

  5. The tabloid vermin may have done Roy a favour – their reaction has already given him greater public sympathy, and may make them realise they need to turn down the vitriol.

    And those of us who long ago tired of supporting the England team, with its accompanying hype, jingoism, and failure – might actually get behind them this summer, hoping that Roy can shut his doubters up.

    Frank Heaven

    May 2, 2012

  6. What’s truly strange is that the same writers who today are complaining that Hodgson isn’t a good choice for England were among those heavily pushing his claims at Liverpool two summers ago. His lack of apparent ambition then wasn’t a problem for them, neither were his conservative strategies.

    The truth is that two years ago a big chunk of the media wanted to see Rafa Benitez out and an Englishman, in the form of Roy Hodgson in. For whatever reason, that was their agenda. That was the story they wanted to tell.

    This time round, they wanted Fabio Capello out (and have been wanting him out since the World Cup) and an Englishman, in the form of Harry Redknapp in. Hodgson coming in has ruined their story.

    The truth is that two years ago they didn’t care if Liverpool got a man who could handle the job but that their view of things came into being. And they don’t care if England got the best man for the job. They care that the men at the FA have defied them by not appointing the man they have built up as being the best possible choice. For months, a lot of journalists have been claiming that Redknapp for England was practically a certainty, intimating that they had excellent contacts within the FA to confirm this rumour. That this hasn’t happened shows them up as charlatans. And that is something they don’t like.

    Paul Grech

    May 2, 2012

  7. Agree with Frank Heaven. I suddenly find myself caring so much more about the England set-up again just because I want Roy to stick it to these jumped up media morons.

    But, given the players he has to work with, I won’t hold my breath…

    fwis

    May 2, 2012

  8. Glenn Moore of the Independent conducted a survey on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon and found that Redknapp was nowhere near as popular with the fans as the media wanted to believe. Obviously this isn’t an entirely scientific survey, but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the press are after Roy as they would prefer Harry (look at all the references to his age – Redknapp is actually older)

    There is also a disconnect in expectations between the press and the fans – whereas the papers will be full of “WE’RE GOING TO WIN!!” most fans will probably be reasonably happy with a competent performance – maybe getting out of the group and not being humiliated by Spain in the quarters.

    Richard

    May 2, 2012

  9. well written, and as far as the Sun is concerned it should go the same way as the News of the Screws, disgraceful, gutter journalism, but then what else would we expect.

    pavlosmacwolf

    May 2, 2012

  10. Excellent article. I was not a fan of RH appointment at Liverpool for many reasons but as he came gave him my full support as a Liverpool fan. Sadly things clearly didn’t work out and it was best for both parties to part. I feel similar about the England position, he would n’t have been my choice but he’s there now so he needs support. he’s a decent man through Roy and the reaction of the press has been foul. Makes me want to vomit.

    Dave Wallace

    May 2, 2012

  11. Excellent piece, completely agree with the premise of giving the man a chance. Clearly a decent man, dignified, articulate, can string a sentence together without being in danger of serving one. I was staggered by the level of negativity displayed by the BBC who, as well as showing the Apartheid question, also used footage of Sir John Major as if to imply the ineffectuality of a ‘grey man’ and tie that to Hodgson as well. Not that he’s qualified to represent the football world on the question of England manager, but Joey Barton did well effectively peeing on Paxman’s parade last night by describing Hodgson as shrewd, cultured, with a wealth of experience and hoping he gets a chance. I’m not a fan of Joey but fair play to him on that. You could almost hear the frowns of the collective BBC in the background. Good luck Roy Hodgson.

    Mark Conway

    May 2, 2012

  12. Two points.

    Firstly, anyone remember the build up to the English FA Cup semi-final a couple of weeks abo on ITV. They did a piece comparing Terry Venables with Saint ‘Arry. Venables won the English FA Cup, as did Redknapp. It then went on to draw parallels with Redknapp being lined up to be the next England manager. There was one other parallel not mentioned, both managers have… er… financial baggage Maybe certain members of the FA remembered this.

    Secondly, prehaps it’s remembered by the public why Saint ‘Arry was such a favourite with the press. Maybe he’ll explain his true feelings of the supposed “snub” in his next column for The S*n.

    Great piece by the way

    Allan

    May 2, 2012

  13. Firstly, Roy leaves the Hawthorns with nothing but praise from the fans. We were going down – but he came in, steadied the ship, gave the team organisation, and gave us wins at Villa Park, Britannia, Anfield etc.

    As for ‘Arry being the fans favourite – he certainlty wasn’t according to those fans (from many teams) that I’ve spoken to recently. Curiously, that attitude hardened after the court case – strange eh ?

    MR B OING

    May 2, 2012

  14. I wouldn’t value anything Martin Samuel says, or the Mail for that matter. He once said that the English rugby manager should tell his players to seek vengeance for the children who suffered abuse to Irish priests. As for the Sun, well anything to deflect attention from the MP report stating Murdoch was “not fit” to run an international organisation, released the same day Hodgson was appointed.

    Leo

    May 2, 2012

  15. Mr. B Oing. I would be worried if I were you. West Brom will need a new manager. Looks like Alex McLeish might soon become available , and he’ll , for sure, be looking for unique hattrick of Brummie relegations.

    Roger1Ducky

    May 3, 2012

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