Roy Hodgson was appointed England soccer manager today, six weeks before the team opens its European Championship campaign against France.
The 64-year-old Englishman received a four-year contract following discussions with a Football Association panel that included chairman David Bernstein and general secretary Alex Horne. The former Switzerland national manager replaces Fabio Capello, who quit in February after disagreeing with the F.A.’s decision to remove the captaincy from John Terry.
“This is the first time the F.A. has appointed an England manager with any previous international experience,” Bernstein said at a news conference at Wembley Stadium. “His knowledge of the international game is unquestioned. He can walk into any training ground across the world and command respect.”
Hodgson’s appointment comes as U.K. newspapers including the Sun question the move after pushing for the appointment of Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp. The Sun said almost half of England fans wanted Redknapp, and only 13 percent Hodgson.
“It’s always a big job to win people over,” Hodgson said at the news conference. “It’s important first to have a chance. The only way to win people over is to do the job I am confident I can do.”
The F.A. said Hodgson, who’s coached clubs including Inter Milan and Liverpool as well as the U.A.E. and Finland, was the only person approached. Bernstein said the board decided on Hodgson about a month ago but waited to ask his current club, West Bromwich Albion, to speak to him as not to upset its Premier League season. The team is in 10th place with two games left.
West Brom gave permission on April 29 and following four hours of talks yesterday, Hodgson concluded discussions today. He’ll oversee West Brom’s final two matches of the league season and then join England, although his club contract ends June 30.
“We always said we wanted to make an appointment around now,” Bernstein said. “I think we got our timing absolutely right.”
Stuart Pearce, England’s under-21 manager, has overseen the national team’s training and an exhibition match since Capello’s departure.
England has warmups against Norway on May 26 and Belgium a week later before starting its Euro 2012 group games on June 11 against France. It then plays Sweden and tournament co-host Ukraine.
“It’s going to be difficult, but hopefully I’ve got time,” Hodgson said. “Obviously I’ve been working here the last five years so the players are pretty well known to me even though I haven’t worked with them all.”
Hodgson’s tenure at Liverpool lasted only six months before he was fired in January 2011. He said the fans there never accepted him and he’d not accept another job if supporters and media didn’t back him.
Spurs manager Redknapp was the candidate pushed by newspapers and former coaches, who expressed support for picking an English manager. “Footie Fans Fury Over Roy,” ran a headline in the Daily Star tabloid, while the Sun had a story titled, “Readers Slam FA ‘Turnips.’”
“I’m never shocked by things in football,” David Davies, the F.A.’s former executive director, said in an interview. “I thought, as did most people, Harry was the favorite. But the favorite doesn’t always get chosen. If I was Harry would I be upset? Yes I would.””
Davies said there are particular stresses to the role, which one former national coach Graham Taylor once described as an “impossible job.” Kevin Keegan quit the post in 2000, breaking the news to Davies in the lavatory immediately after a World Cup qualification defeat to Germany.
The England manager needs to be someone who “has a tight group of people around them who support them up hill and down dale and they don’t run away when the going gets tough because it will get tough,” Davies said.
Hodgson is the latest manager hired by England as the nation attempts to win its first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup, which it hosted. England failed to make the last European Championship in 2008 and was eliminated in the second round of the World Cup in 2010 following a 4-1 loss to Germany.
Even after its poor tournament record, England is the fourth favorite with U.K. bookmaker William Hill to win the European Championship, behind Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.
“England always have to go into tournaments to win them because we are a major football power,” Hodgson said. “I think the players would be very disappointed if we expected anything less of them to win the tournament.”
Hodgson took over West Brom in February 2011, taking the team out of relegation trouble last season and established it as a mid-table Premier League club this year. He was named Manager of the Year after taking Fulham to the Europa League final in 2010.