If Roy Hodgson’s appointment as England manager came as a surprise to many people, then imagine how shocked we were at West Brom.
Once Fabio Capello had left, Roy had been talked about in the media as a potential next manager but Harry Redknapp, it was well documented, was the bookies’ favourite and the fans’ favourite. So when the news broke early this week that Roy was set to be announced as the new man in charge, it really did come out of the blue.
It was very strange. I was at home having a bite to eat and suddenly I got a text from the club — an hour or so before the news was made public — letting us players know that the story was about to break. I had to look at the text a few times, trying to work out were there going to be other people interviewed for the job. But it quickly became apparent that he was the FA’s first and only choice. And then all the players were texting each other back and forth. The tone was one of dismay. “Can’t believe it” was the general verdict.
Honestly, the players are devastated to be losing Roy Hodgson. Selfishly, we wanted him to stay because we genuinely rate him that highly. We all recognise that he has done wonders for the club, moulding us into a very good, solid outfit and effectively turning us into an established Premier League team. West Brom have had this tag of being a yo-yo club in the last few years but had he stayed it would definitely have been a case of onwards and upwards.
He’s tactically astute and brilliant at analysing the weaknesses and strengths of players and teams. Training sessions are never the same. From the Monday morning, they’re always geared towards the game and the particular opposition coming up on Saturday. So for myself and all the lads, him going at the end of the season is a massive loss.
I can understand how it would be virtually impossible for him to turn down the England job. He’s a very proud Englishman and it would be the pinnacle of his career for him to manage the national team. So, for that reason, I am genuinely delighted for him, even if the phrase ‘poisoned chalice’ is always bandied about when this particular job is up for grabs.
That’s because, first and foremost, it really is such a hard job. There is so much scrutiny of the man in charge and we’ve all seen what previous English managers have gone through over the years in terms of derogatory comment and the like. It’s a very different ball game to, say, the job of managing Ireland.
A lot of people have been saying that Roy Hodgson doesn’t have the right personality for the demands of the job and that he won’t be able to deal with the big characters in the dressing room. But we know him first-hand at West Brom and you don’t manage for all the years he has — and managed big teams like Inter Milan — without developing a sense of authority to go along with that wealth of experience. I think he will pull that team together and do a good job.
Though hopefully not too good, just in case we come up against each other at the Euros. I have to say, it’d be interesting to hear what he would say to Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard about me and my strengths and weaknesses! The one thing I can say is that he’s seems to have a positive opinion of me, in that he had previously tried to sign me at Fulham before he eventually brought me to The Hawthorns. He is fully aware that I like getting forward, bombing from box to box, but, as it happens, he’d recently been saying to me that he could foresee me playing a deeper role for the team in years to come. But, still, I’m conscious of the fact that West Brom are a club which operates within a certain budget, and I’m sure if he could go out and buy Steven Gerrard I’d be out of the team fairly quickly.
For me, Roy’s departure has particular implications. My contract is up at the end of the season and negotiations on a new one have already been going on for a couple of months. With hindsight, it starts to add up why it’s taken longer than usual. The manager’s contract is up too and he may have had an inkling — or certainly a desire — to manage England. The club are saying nothing has changed from their point of view, and that they would like me to stay. But, from my point of view, I’ve signed for a club that, yes, I really do enjoy being at — but a major part of that was Roy Hodgson. So it’s a tricky one, and it leaves quite a few of us in limbo, to a degree.
People may wonder if this is the last thing I need to be thinking about on the eve of the Euros. Certainly, in an ideal world, I’d be signing a new three-year contract at West Brom — and so would Roy Hodgson. But, truthfully, I’ve been through bigger stuff than this in my career and it hasn’t affected me too much. I’m actually relatively calm about the whole situation and, more importantly, very happy with how I’m playing at the moment.
And, no matter what might happen over the coming weeks in talks between my advisors and West Brom — or any other club — I won’t be taking my eyes off the big prize next month.
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