Baffling omission of Redknapp from selection process could haunt the FA

WHEN Paraguay’s Carlos Gamarra diverted David Beckham’s free-kick into his own net just three minutes into England’s ill-fated 2006 World Cup, the transformation of Frankfurt’s Waldstadion into an outpost of England was clear for all to see.

Forget the 5,000 or so seats officially set aside for Three Lions supporters, when the ball flew into the net via the unfortunate Gamarra’s head it was clear more than two-thirds of the 48,000 crowd originated from these shores.

Back in the centre of town, another 10,000 or so England fans were watching on big screens to underline just how committed the country had become to supporting the national team.

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It had been a similar story two years earlier at Euro 2004 as an estimated 50,000 travelled to Portugal, while even pre-tournament fears about crime and the cost of travel could not deter 20,000 fans from making their way to South Africa a couple of years ago.

Next month, however, will be a different story due to only 5,000 supporters being expected to make the trip to Ukraine for England’s three group games in Euro 2012.

Following the FA’s decision to plump for Roy Hodgson ahead of the more popular choice of Harry Redknapp, it is highly unlikely travel agents have spent the last 24 hours dealing with a late rush of fans wanting to book flights to the former Soviet state.

Tottenham Hotspur’s manager may not be to everyone’s liking but his managerial record over recent seasons compares favourably with all but Sir Alex Ferguson.

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FA Cup winner in 2008 and Carling Cup finalist a year later, Redknapp then took Spurs to the Champions League quarter-finalists in a manner that won him a host of admirers. This season also promised a title challenge until the speculation that followed Fabio Capello’s departure destabilised the London club to such an extent they now need a strong finish to book a top-four place.

Hodgson’s CV, of course, boasts domestic success in Sweden and Denmark. It also tells how he has twice reached the UEFA Cup final with Inter Milan and Fulham, and had three separate spells as an international manager with Switzerland, Finland and the United Arab Emirates.

But, even allowing for an admittedly impressive career, Hodgson’s impending appointment smacks of being an easy option along the lines of Steve McClaren in 2006. And we all know how that ended.

The suspicion is that Hodgson will be a neater fit in terms of the FA’s commitment to the new National Football Centre at Burton-on-Trent, which is due to open later this year.

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St George’s Park will, we are told, transform the culture of football in this country by not only being home to all Three Lions teams but also the place where the coaches of the future will be developed.

And, as the FA have made clear all along, Capello’s successor is going to be a pivotal figure with the suggestion being that he will be required to be present every day and expected to be out on the training pitch with teams of all age groups.

Burton is a laudable project but surely it is asking a lot for the man charged with bringing some long-overdue success to the senior side to also play such a central role in the development of young players and coaches.

Hodgson’s wretched stint in charge of Liverpool last season is another big concern, not least because in accepting the job at a time when the Kop was clamouring for Kenny Dalglish’s return it offers an interesting parallel with the current situation facing the FA. If, for instance, England start as poorly as Liverpool did under his charge then, as at Anfield, there will be no honeymoon period and a few bad results and a failure to go beyond the group stages in Euro 2012 may well lead to the new manager going into the World Cup qualifiers next September already under intense pressure.

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And if the nation does make its displeasure clear then Hodgson will have to show a thicker skin than he did at Anfield when, towards the end, his media interviews were tetchy, to say the least.

If things do go badly, the FA will be seen as equally culpable for turning their back on the people’s choice, just as happened in 1977 when Ron Greenwood got the job ahead of Brian Clough.

The admission by chairman David Bernstein on Sunday that the governing body only planned to speak to one candidate raised eyebrows.

Surely, fans have been asking on messageboards and radio phone-ins since then, a candidate that just last week senior FA board member Phil Gartside backed publicly deserved at least an opportunity to outline his vision for the future?

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It seems a strange decision by the four-man Club England board – Bernstein, FA general secretary Alex Horne, Sir Trevor Brooking and managing director Adrian Bevington – to ignore Redknapp completely, and one that could come back to haunt them.

Because if England do flop this summer, it will not just be the 5,000 fans in the Ukraine who will be asking serious questions of those charged with acting in the best interests of the Three Lions.

Coyle believes circumstances favour Hodgson, the man who ‘ticks every box’

Bolton manager Owen Coyle is not surprised by the Football Association’s decision to approach Roy Hodgson rather than Harry Redknapp about the England manager’s job – although he would back either of them to be a success in the role.

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West Bromwich head coach Hodgson looks set to take charge of the Three Lions as the permanent successor to Fabio Capello after it was confirmed that the Baggies had granted the FA permission to speak to their man.

With Tottenham’s Redknapp having long been the favourite to take the post, the news about Hodgson stunned many observers, but Coyle, whose side have Premier League home games coming up against Spurs tomorrow and West Brom on Sunday, was not among them.

Coyle said: “I always felt it was between the two of them. There was the clamour for Harry and we all understand why.

“But it didn’t surprise me that they then tried to approach Roy.”

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Hodgson’s contract at his club, unlike Redknapp’s, is due to expire in the summer, meaning he would not cost the FA any compensation.

Picking up on that point, Coyle said: “Sometimes circumstances can dictate what happens. Obviously with Roy, his contract is up in the summer and Harry would have cost a lot of money.

“People might look at that, but what I know, aside from all that, is that the two of them are outstanding managers who would do a wonderful job for England.”

He added: “I am absolutely thrilled. If Roy decides to take the job, there is no doubt he ticks every box in terms of what England are looking for.

“Roy is a terrific manager, someone I have a lot of time for, and I have no doubts he can bring real success to the England national team.’’