Not that long ago, I enjoyed dinner with Roy Hodgson and a mutual friend at a very nice club in Mayfair.
Roy and I are not close friends but it was great to sit and talk to him about his career and views on football. It was quite obvious to me on that occasion that he didn’t consider himself finished with the game.
So the news that he is back at Crystal Palace at the age of 75 didn’t surprise me. But what I will say is that he must have incredible energy and enthusiasm to be taking a step back into that crazy world once more.
Management is like a hamster’s wheel. When you are on it, you feel like you want to get off. But when you are off it, then you are desperate to get back on again. The job can exert that pull on you.
Roy is a nice guy and a genuine guy. The players at Palace will recognise that. Some of them will have worked with him the last time he was there and that may help. But equally he will know what is coming.
Not that long ago, I enjoyed dinner with Roy Hodgson and a friend at a very nice club in Mayfair
The news that Hodgson (pictured with Wilfried Zaha in 2021) has returned to Crystal Palace at the age of 75 didn’t surprise me
It was quite obvious to me on that occasion that Hodgson (pictured during Crystal Palace’s clash with Manchester City in 2020) didn’t consider himself finished with the game
If he starts well and wins a couple of games, then people will say his experience and know-how have proved vital. If he doesn’t, then people will say he is a dinosaur, the game’s moved on and he’s too old. That’s life in football management today.
I couldn’t do it now, I know that. Part of the trick of management is knowing when to get out. For me it was when the negatives of losing a game started to outweigh the positives of winning one.
I was 52 when I left Newcastle and that was it for me. I hadn’t particularly enjoyed that job and I had started to bring it home with me. I had started to be a person I didn’t like as much and who wasn’t great to be around for my family. So I knew it was time.
Sometime after that I was sitting in the back of a car with the great Johnny Giles. We were doing some work for Irish television and he asked me if I was going to go back in. He told me that if you are out for a year to 18 months, you will wonder why you ever did that job for so long. Maybe he was right about that.
Sure, there have been times when I have looked at a manager and thought I knew more than him or could maybe do better. We all believe in ourselves, don’t we? I have in those moments wondered if I should go back. But deep down I know my personality is not suited to dealing with the modern player.
At 99 per cent of the clubs now the tail is wagging the dog. Many of the players don’t really care that much now. From the outside looking in it’s just a job. They rarely come from the local community, they don’t live in the local community and they don’t socialise there.
They live in a protected bubble. They don’t feel that deep connection that maybe players once did. So a manager has to understand that and deal with that and still manage to get the best out of them. He is not the one with all the power any more. Pep Guardiola is perhaps the exception.
I was 52 when I left Newcastle and that was it for me. I hadn’t particularly enjoyed that job and I had started to bring it home with me. I had started to be a person I didn’t like
Players live in a protected bubble. So a manager has to understand that and deal with that and still manage to get the best out of them. He is not the one with all the power any more
So you need to be of a certain character to deal with that and Roy has that in his favour. He is wise enough and experienced enough to know how it works and to not let it drive him to distraction. When I sat with him across the dinner table, his deep desire to win and succeed and to improve players came across. To manage successfully you have to retain that drive and I think he has. That really impressed me.
I don’t like criticising managers. I don’t like sitting in a pundit’s seat and saying that somebody should be sacked or is not good enough. The reason for that is I know how hard that job is. The scrutiny that is on managers today has never been so great, which makes life more difficult at the top end of football.
Roy will remember what happened at Watford when he was there last season. He couldn’t manage to rescue them and keep them in the top division. He will not have wanted that to be his last job in football.
Whatever the case, management is a round-the-clock job. You don’t switch off. You take it home with you. I decided I didn’t want that any more.
Roy still enjoys it and wants to be in the thick of it again. I can’t help but admire him.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is perhaps the exception in the Premier League
Six years ago this week I attended Ronnie Moran’s funeral with my son, James, and afterwards we went back to Anfield for a gathering.
On the way home, I said to him that Ronnie was probably the most important influence on my career.
Bob Paisley was the manager who signed me for Liverpool and under whom I won many things but it was Ronnie, one of his assistants, who we spent every moment of our working days with. He left the biggest impression really.
Ronnie never wanted to be a manager and probably wouldn’t have been cut out for it.
He was no diplomat and didn’t enjoy the limelight. But he was the one who kept the standards high at the club and who kept driving us forwards.
I remember after a particularly bruising European Cup semi-final first leg against Dinamo Bucharest at Anfield in 1984, I came down the tunnel to find their midfielder Lica Movila waiting for me.
I had clashed with him on the field and he wasn’t at all happy with me. He had two rather large henchmen with him and I had the feeling retribution was about to be sought.
But who stepped in between us to make sure I could get peacefully to our dressing room? Ronnie.
I still owe him for that, and much, much more besides.
In an earlier column this season, I wrote that Declan Rice still had much to prove in certain areas of his game to be regarded as a really top-class central midfield player.
He needs to get on the half turn more when he receives the ball from his defenders and play it forward more, and not be content with going back to where it came from and square with his passes. And he needs to chip in with more goals. He has scored twice in the Premier League this season in 26 games and it’s not enough.
Now Rice has said his piece, too. He thinks that my criticism is ‘harsh’ and that I don’t see him play every week. That’s true. But I have seen him enough, for West Ham and for England.
I watched the game against Italy and the same things were on show. Any world-class midfield player is on the half turn most of the time and looking to play forwards. How many times did Rice do that in Naples? Not nearly enough for me. Get some videos of Kroos and Modric playing in their midfield roles for Real Madrid. Or go back a few years and watch Paul Scholes.
In an earlier column this season, I wrote that Declan Rice still had much to prove in certain areas of his game to be regarded as a really top-class central midfield player
As we saw against Italy, he has mastered the defensive side of the job. But I just think he has to strive to be better and never be content with his lot. That’s what great players do.
Will he end up one day as a central defender — which I think is very possible — or does he want to be a top, top central midfield player starring in the Champions League every season?
I bet Declan is a cracking lad to work with and popular with his team-mates and great to manage. But he needs to aim for the stars. This is just my opinion.
But I think he should ask himself one question as he moves his career forwards — ‘How do I become a truly world-class player?’ The bottom line is that at 24 years of age he must constantly challenge himself to get better.
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