Only one person outside English soccer’s governing body knew Roy Hodgson would be asked to coach the national team, and it wasn’t the 64-year-old West Bromwich Albion manager.
Football Association Chairman David Bernstein and his three colleagues on the selection panel decided on Hodgson about a month ago even as bookmakers rated Tottenham’s Harry Redknapp as the favorite. The F.A. got in touch with West Brom Chairman Jeremy Peace, who requested Hodgson not be contacted until after his team’s April 28 Premier League game against Aston Villa.
“They said they didn’t want us to approach Roy until after the Villa match,” Bernstein said yesterday after Hodgson signed a four-year contract. “If we’d gone to them earlier, we’d have had a different response.”
Peace, a former broker, kept the secret for about a week before Bernstein called Hodgson at 2 p.m. on April 29 to tell him that he was the only candidate to become England manager, F.A. general secretary Alex Horne said. Redknapp was still the bookmakers’ favorite two days ago to replace Fabio Capello after the Italian quit following a dispute in February.
Peace said Hodgson will oversee West Brom’s final two Premier League games before being released early from his contract to allow him to prepare England for the European Championship, which starts June 8.
“We did not want Roy to leave,” Peace said in a statement. “I would like to thank David Bernstein for the sensitive and professional manner in which he has liaised with me in bringing about Roy’s appointment.”
Two of the past three permanent England managers came from outside the country, and there was pressure to appoint an English candidate. Hodgson is the only English coach in the Premier League to have won manager of the year, an honor he picked up after leading Fulham to the 2010 Europa League final.
His appointment to one of the most high-profile jobs in world soccer surprised bookmakers and U.K. media, who had speculated that Redknapp would be hired. Last month, William Hill Plc was offering 1-4 odds on Redknapp getting the job, meaning a successful bet of $4 would return $1. Hodgson was a 14-1 outsider.
“It’s one of the most important decisions a chairman and board can make, the appointment of a manager, and I won’t have too many stabs at this,” said Bernstein, who was flanked by Horne and Hodgson as well as Adrian Bevington and Trevor Brooking, the two other members of the recruitment panel. “We all stand and fall together on this. There were easier appointments.”
Hodgson, who has six weeks to prepare England for Euro 2012, where it meets France, Sweden and co-host Ukraine in the group stage, said he hoped his friendship with Redknapp wouldn’t be affected. Redknapp, he said, had left a voicemail congratulating him.
“We’ve unwittingly become rivals,” Hodgson said.
Bernstein said Hodgson’s previous international management experience made him the “outstanding candidate.” The much-traveled coach guided Switzerland to the 1994 World Cup tournament and a team-high ranking of third in the world, before coaching the United Arab Emirates and Finland.
He’s also led championship teams in Sweden and Denmark, though had a less successful six-month spell at Liverpool, which ended in January 2011 and included the 18-time English champion’s worst start to a season since 1953 and a poor relationship with supporters.
Hodgson said he acknowledged there were parallels between his England appointment and the one at Liverpool, where fans had chanted current coach Kenny Dalglish’s name while Hodgson sat in the dugout at Anfield. Redknapp was the popular choice to lead England and had the support of players including striker Wayne Rooney and former captain Rio Ferdinand.
“I’d have to be on another planet not to be aware of that situation,” Hodgson said. “There is one major difference between my time at Liverpool and being offered the job as England manager. The people at Liverpool who appointed me didn’t have a chance to stay very long and others took over the club. The F.A. had a lot of time to decide which candidate they wanted to do the job, and I’m happy it was me.”
Hodgson said a 23-man squad for Euro 2012 would be selected after the last round of Premier League games on May 13. Interim coach Stuart Pearce had said the roster would be announced May 10. England has warm-ups against Norway on May 26 and Belgium a week later before opening its Euro 2012 campaign June 11 against France.
England hasn’t won a major tournament since its sole triumph in 1966, when it lifted the World Cup as host. William Hill rates it the fourth favorite behind defending champion Spain, record three-time winner Germany and the Netherlands.
“One is tempted to say, because it’s England, that success is only reaching the latter stages, even tempted to say the only success is winning,” Hodgson said. “But I’d like people to cut us a bit of slack in that respect. The resignation of Fabio Capello has made the situation somewhat different. I’m only going to have been here a short period of time.”