Swedes will still honour Hodgson even if he sends them packing

England manager Roy Hodgson during the training session at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev
England manager Roy Hodgson during the training session at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev
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Ask Roy Hodgson where he most associates himself after a nomadic career and the answer comes back immediately, Sweden.

Tonight, Hodgson will attempt to hit them where it hurts, advancing England’s Euro 2012 cause whilst dumping the Swedes out of the competition, trying to put a different spin on that damning ‘Sweden 2 Turnips 1’ headline from 1992.

If he achieves that aim, few in Sweden will condemn Hodgson.

Legendary status is not lost on the back of one result.

Few in Sweden had heard of Hodgson when he was recommended for a coaching job at Halmstad by Bobby Houghton, his former manager at Maidstone.

Yet such was the impression Houghton had made in his own transition to the Swedish league, officials at Halmstad took him at his word.

Never in their wildest dreams could they imagine the move would be so successful.

In his first season, Hodgson transformed a team tipped for relegation into title-winners for the first time in their history.

It was his “water into wine” moment, Hodgson later recounted.

Three seasons later, they did it again. The legend was starting to take shape.

Hodgson’s secret, such as it was, involved following Houghton in snubbing the widespread Swedish sweeper system in favour of a British flat back four, pressing the ball, condensing the space and moving possession from back to front far quicker than had previously been the case.

A brief spell at Bristol City proved unsuccessful but such was Hodgson’s status in Sweden that another job offer was not long in coming.

Oddevold brought him back into the fold. A short stint at Orebro followed.

Then came five seasons at Malmo that ended with him literally being offered a job for life.

At the club’s new Swedbank stadium, they have a ‘Roy’s Corner’, a rather fitting tribute to a man who completed five straight top-of-the-table finishes, won two championships – that required play-offs – and a couple of Swedish Cups.

Yet Hodgson’s greatest achievement with Malmo was knocking Inter Milan out of the European Cup.

“In my opinion, Roy is a really good coach and a really nice person as well,” said current Sweden coach Erik Hamren. “He came to Sweden unknown but became a big name because of results at his clubs and took some new ideas into Swedish football.

“He is a big name now but we will never forget what he has done for Swedish football.

“I really like him and you have seen so far with England, that he is a good coach.

“I am looking forward to meeting him tomorrow but I hope he is going to have most of the headaches after the game.”

But, when asked if Hodgson’s knowledge of Swedish football would give England an advantage, Hamren said: “I also know English football really well so we will see!”

The tie was only severed in 1990 when Hodgson opted for a complete change of direction, joining Neuchâtel Xamax.

He has had 14 managerial jobs since, culminating in his current one, the fulfilment of his career. Hodgson never came back to Sweden though the opportunity undoubtedly existed.

There are even suggestions he was sounded out about taking over as the national team coach during his time at Fulham after Lars Lagerback had resigned.

It is said Hodgson did not feel the time was right for such a move and politely declined, only to leave Craven Cottage at the end of that season, when Liverpool came calling.

Maybe Hodgson should be thankful for that unhappy spell at Anfield, otherwise he might not have ended up trying to make the Three Lions roar. However, even if they manage to take a large bite out of Sweden tonight, their fans will forgive.

That’s what happens when you are a hero.

Hodgson’s captain, Steven Gerrard, is confident England will finally gain their first win over Sweden in a competitive match if they emulate the performance they gave in their Euro 2012 opener against France.

England have failed to overcome the Swedes in seven previous World Cup or European Championship encounters ahead of tonight’s Group D encounter in Kiev.

But Gerrard is adamant that sequence should end, even allowing for the threat posed by Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Gerrard said: “I would think the same level of performance against France will be good enough to beat Sweden.

“I would say so with all due respect to Sweden who are a good, strong team, but they are not France.

“I think we can be a little bit more bold and a little bit more ambitious and get at the Swedes a little bit more.

“We are confident if we reach the same level of performance, it will be enough for a victory.”