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Hodgson - the successor to Capello?

When Fabio Capello was named as the new manager of England following the disastrous reign of Steve McClaren, it was universally accepted that England would have to settle for a foreign coach once again. There was simply no standout English candidate at the time – the likes of Harry Redknapp, Alan Curbishley and Sam Allardyce were all mentioned, but none of them had a serious and realistic chance. However, when the time comes that Capello and England part ways, there is one man that currently stands head-and-shoulders above the rest of the competition as his successor – Roy Hodgson.

Since taking over at Fulham in December 2007, the transformation that the club has undergone under the leadership of Hodgson is astonishing. With five games to go in the 2007/08 season, Fulham appeared a certainty for relegation. A win at Reading gave them hope, but defeat against an under strength Liverpool at Craven Cottage meant that they had to win all their remaining games to survive. At 2-0 down after only 19 minutes at the City of Manchester Stadium looked to confirm their demise. However, a stunning turnaround that mirrors the fortunes of the club in the years since, led to a 3-2 victory thanks to an injury time winner from Diomansy Kamara. Two victories in the final two games secured their Premiership status for another year and it has all been positive since.

The signings of Brede Hangeland, Mark Schwarzer and Bobby Zamora were hailed as masterstrokes by the press and a refreshing blend of simple, but quality football saw Hodgson record Fulham’s highest ever finish last year in 7th place, qualifying for the Europa League. If supporters thought that was the pinnacle, there were more magnificent moments to come. Two gritty, backs-to-the-wall performances against the holders, Shakhtar, saw them draw Italian giants Juventus in the next round. After a 3-1 defeat in Turin and conceding in the opening 10 minutes at Craven Cottage, the European adventure seemed to be over. Bookies were offering 70-1 on Fulham to qualify. However, a stunning performance, spearheaded by Zamora, who made the legendary Fabio Cannavaro look very ordinary, and capped by a wonderful goal by Clint Dempsey saw them recover to win 4-1 on the night and 5-4 on aggregate. The calls for Hodgson to replace Capello increased.

Roy Hodgson is one of those rare English managers that has spent significant time in Europe learning his trade. He was appointed to his first managerial role in 1976 at the age of 28 by Swedish side Halmstads. Having just avoided relegation the previous season, they were almost universally tipped to finish rock-bottom. However, in one of the biggest shocks in Swedish history, Hodgson comfortably led them to the league title. To this day, he still classes this as his greatest achievement. Following another title two years later, he moved to Bristol City, but struggled due to the club’s financial problems.

In 1985, he took over at Malmö, whom he led to five straight league championships, becoming a hero to the fans there, who have unofficially named a part of the new stadium after him. He was offered a lifetime contract at the club, but felt he wanted to move on and challenge himself in new competitions. He moved to Switzerland, managing Neuchâtel Xamax to victories over Celtic and Real Madrid, before being offered the national team role in 1992.

He led the country to the 1994 World Cup, their first in almost 30 years. The feat was all the more impressive considering their group contained Italy, who would go on to finish runners-up, and a Portugal team, featuring the likes of Fernando Couto, Vitor Baía and João Pinto. They went on to qualify from the group stage, but lost in the last 16 to Spain. Qualification for Euro ’96 was fairly straightforward, but Hodgson left in November 1995, before the tournament to join Inter Milan.

Despite the club having started poorly, he led them to a 7th placed finish that was good enough to qualify for the UEFA Cup. The following season he led them to a 3rd placed finish and the final of the UEFA Cup, where they lost on penalties to Schalke. He didn’t have a team of star names, but a strong physical approach proved successful. However, fearing the sack due to not winning the Scudetto, he moved to Blackburn Rovers that summer.

Following a 6th placed finish in his first season, he was being tipped as a future England manager, but a terrible start to the following season saw Blackburn bottom of the table at Christmas, and Hodgson looking for a new job. Spells at Inter, as technical director, Grasshoppers, Copenhagen, Udinese and Viking followed, whilst he was shortlisted for the England job, but lost out to his good friend Sven-Göran Eriksson.

He returned to international football with Finland, where, despite not being able to lead them to Euro 2008, he was hailed as a success, having kept them in contention until the last round of games – a feat virtually unheard of in Finland. However, he rejected a new contract to take over at Fulham.

A very intelligent man, who is famed for his attention to detail, he speaks four languages fluently and is relatively proficient in another four; he must surely be considered as one of the front-runners for the England job in the future. His reputation around Europe is well-respected; he has been offered the German job, before it was withdrawn following public pressure against appointing an Englishman, and retains a close friendship with Massimo Moratti, the Inter Milan owner, where there are rumours in Italy that he may be set to replace Mourinho in the summer, should the self-proclaimed 'Special One' decide to part ways with the club.

His CV is unrivalled, having managed 12 teams in 8 different countries, and 3 nations over a 34 year career. He is regularly approached by UEFA’s technical study groups to analyse systems and styles, and to educate and advise future generations. He has a good relationship with the national press, having gained a reputation as a straight-talking, honest manager, who rarely blames referees or other circumstances for defeats. And he has received the backing of none other than Sir Alex Ferguson, who claimed that he would be ideal for the England job. Everybody would ideally like an Englishman to manage England, and finally it would appear that we have a suitable man for the job.

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