It’s generally something shiny and thrilling that supporters look for when a new manager arrives and Roy Hodgson, in all honesty, is neither of those.
‘There’s not going to be rainbows and blue skies and rose-coloured spectacles,’ he once observed, when asked if a top-half finish might be within Crystal Palace’s range of expectations. ‘I never use the word “confident”,’ he said last year amid the fight to save Watford, which he lost.
He arrives back at Palace, aged 75, with the club either 12th, or three points above the relegation zone, depending on how full your glass is. A mere four points separate nine teams and that entire chunk of the Premier League is in a state of paralysis. Clubs won’t commit to new contracts until the relegation picture becomes clearer.
Hodgson won’t set the house on fire at his press conference but he will restore a sense that age and experience have a place in a managerial profession which so often now seems the preserve of the young. He will also bring a fundamental humanity which seems increasingly lost amid the controversies and egos, pomposity and posturing of the modern managerial game.
Class has seemed in short supply at times this season, though the carousel of the Premier League whirls so fast that some of the vicious little moments have passed almost without comment.
Roy Hodgson’s return to Crystal Palace as their new manager was confirmed on Tuesday
Jurgen Klopp’s personalised criticism of a respected Liverpool journalist at Wolves was poisonous. Pep Guardiola’s sneaky little moment of mockery for Steven Gerrard was despicable.
Those interventions would have been bewildering to Hodgson, for whom bursting along the touchline, letting everyone see how very furious you are, is also an alien concept.
Aleksandar Mitrovic’s disgraceful behaviour at Old Trafford was clearly a consequence of having Marco Silva in his eye-line, hammering the referee.
I heard talkSPORT’s Jamie O’Hara, whose work I like a lot, say that young players would not be influenced by this conduct. Hard to agree with that.
When it was announced the other week that junior football referees would be wearing body cameras, no one batted an eyelid.
The old-school decency and courtesy Hodgson brings have never seemed more needed.
Class has seemed in short supply at times this season with Pep Guardiola (left) and Jurgen Klopp’s (right) vicious little moments passing almost without comment
Aleksandar Mitrovic’s disgraceful behaviour at Old Trafford was clearly a consequence of having Marco Silva (centre) in his eye-line, hammering the referee before he was sent off
Antonio Conte last week publicly castigated Tottenham players whose arrivals he sanctioned
He has certainly had unflattering moments. A press conference in Chantilly, north of Paris, at which he reluctantly appeared after England’s exit from the 2016 Euros at the hands of Iceland, did not cover him in glory.
‘I don’t want to come here as Uriah Heep and in a bolshy way,’ he said. In a bolshy way. It’s fair to say that his best work has come in more modest surrounds.
But while many would never have recovered from that excruciating episode, Hodgson did.
Without recrimination or self-pity, he climbed back up and started again. Too much is made of courage in sport but Hodgson displayed it in the aftermath of that brutal public humiliation, seven years ago.
I remember him telling me, during a barbecue at England’s team base in Hertfordshire before the 2012 Euros, that he had been reading the novel Stoner, written in the 1960s by the American John Williams.
Hodgson resigned from the England job after they were knocked out of Euro 2016 by Iceland
It is the story of an unsensational academic who is patient, earnest, enduring and steadfast in equal measure, and who pursues and finds a cherished inner space as the world crowds in.
That has been Hodgson in so many ways: conservative, cautious, deeply thoughtful and certainly not a sound-bite merchant for the multi-media age.
A contrast, also, to the dismal self-absorption of Antonio Conte, who has earned the kind of acclaim and riches Hodgson has never known, yet who scurried back to Italy this week after publicly castigating Tottenham players whose arrivals he sanctioned.
A discussion of the expected goals metric might not last too long with Hodgson. Nor talk of philosophies.
Asked during those England years how he defined his football method, he replied: ‘You can do the defining. We work on attacking and defending.’
Hodgson has been away from management since managing Watford last season
He simply loves the sport he has given his life to. And he has found in the twilight of his career that he is a rather good fit with Palace, a well-run, community-focused club who have built out from a state of financial crisis to enjoy 10 successive years in the Premier League — their longest run at the top level.
When he had recovered from the England distress and was rebuilding so successfully at Palace, Hodgson reflected on the value of circumspection.
‘I think it’s dangerous, directly after a game, to go out with the emotions you are feeling and speak, because you can make mistakes,’ he said. ‘You need to settle down.’
Conte could do worse than heed that wisdom. It’s good to know that age is no barrier. It’s good to know that Hodgson is back.
Shocking response to podcast trying to get answers over Bradford fire
The pitiful level of inquiry into the Bradford Stadium Fire, which claimed 56 lives almost 40 years, has always been bewildering. And the response to those who question its depth is unfathomable.
I discovered this when writing about Fifty Six: The Bradford Fire, an extraordinary book written in 2015 by Martin Fletcher, who lost his father, brother, uncle and grandfather to the fire. ‘Get your nose out of our club,’ sums up the response. Fletcher has been demonised by many.
A new podcast investigation into those events, ‘900 Degrees’, coolly lays out the inadequacy of the investigation and asks, all over again, how Bradford City and their chairman Stafford Heginbotham got away with an official inquiry verdict that the tragedy was just an accident.
There are so many reasons why Popplewell’s superficial work lacked the remotest spirit of inquiry or curiosity.
The Bradford Stadium fire back in 1985 claimed the lives of 56 people
The podcast, which I have contributed to, details a letter from West Yorkshire County Council to the club in July 1984, warning City that they risked precisely the tragedy which unfolded a year later. They ignored it.
But Popplewell also decided that he would wrap an examination of a riot which occurred at Birmingham City on the same day as the Bradford Fire into his mere five-day examination of the disaster.
‘I don’t think it occurred to us there was anything odd about it because they arose on the same day and safety and hooliganism went hand in hand,’ Popplewell tells the podcast.
The podcast’s researcher challenge received wisdom. ‘Just listen to me or I will terminate this interview,’ says one interviewee. ‘Just shut up.’ Sounds familiar.
Shame on Wednesday
Who knew that you can actually ‘block’ specific terms of abuse being sent to you on Twitter? I do, now.
That helps when you’re on the receiving end of a tide of filth from a cohort of Sheffield Wednesday football fans, for describing how their club covered up an order to reduce the capacity of their Hillsborough stadium.
Wednesday are now considering going to court to challenge that order, imposed upon them by a Safety Advisory Group constituted to protect people. A classy club, Sheffield Wednesday.
Sheffield Wednesday are considering going to court to challenge an order to reduce the capacity of their Hillsborough stadium, imposed upon them by a Safety Advisory Group
What happened to our 2012 legacy?
It is not just the state of our local public swimming baths which are a problem. It is getting into them.
Some time off brought the chance to take my seven-year-old grandson to Stretford baths after school — a time when he needs to burn off some energy. No chance.
By 2.30pm on Mondays and 3.45pm every other weekday, the baths are closed. Pools have closed in Huddersfield, Milton Keynes, Coventry and Sevenoaks.
The councils who run them have no cash. And we talked about legacy when we secured the 2012 Olympics.
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