NOW here’s a curious thing. A month ago, Roy Hodgson was been touted as a contender for the England job. A less serious contender than Jose Mourinho, perhaps. But a more serious contender than Jeff Stelling.
Interviews were conducted in which Roy played down the England rumours, in the way that managers do. The job went to Fabio Capello, and everyone forgot about the other contenders.
One month later, Roy Hodgson is named as the new manager of Fulham, and just about everyone with a passing interest in English football reacts as if they’ve just been told that Nick Clegg is the new Prime Minister.
I was working in the office at the Manchester Evening News yesterday when the story broke, and everyone I passed the information on to responded by saying “Roy Hodgson?” in a high-pitched voice while pulling a startled facial expression.
Perhaps Hodgson responded in exactly the same way when he learned he had got the job. I doubt it, though, as I’ve never seen any evidence that he can pull a startled face or speak in a high-pitched voice. Although if those had been the criteria for getting the Fulham job, Mark Lawrenson would have been a shoo-in.
Which brings me neatly back to Match of the Day, where Fulham’s game was on last this weekend. See how neatly everything fits together? I don’t just make all of this up off the top of my head, you know.
Last night’s final match: Birmingham 1 Fulham 1. Commentator: Martin Fisher
It perhaps shows where the club versus country battle is now at in England that a man can be put forward as a reasonably credible candidate for the national job, but is considered a bizarre left-field appointment for the team lying next to bottom of the Premier League.
Having been manager of Finland until recently, Hodgson is perhaps a little more used to the cold than Birmingham owner David Sullivan, so there were none of the sartorial eccentricies of last Saturday’s final MOTD game.
What would Hodgson have made of his new charges? It’s hard to tell from three minutes and 50 seconds of highlights; by my reckoning, the second shortest edit of a Premier League game on Match of the Day this season. (Aston Villa v Derby on November 3 was a whole two seconds shorter, since you ask.)
But from what I saw, the reason Fulham haven’t won away from home since some time around the fall of Oliver Cromwell is that they don’t create much of an attacking threat. One early snap shot from David Healy, one clever corner routine that brought a goal for Carlos Bocanegra, and that was it.
And the Fulham defending for Sebastian Larsson’s deflected equaliser was, as a Scottish friend of mine would put it, pish. So they don’t look like scoring away from home, and they can’t defend. Bit of work for old Roy to do there, then.
Hodgson is apparently on a £1million bonus to keep Fulham in the Premier League. Well, he’s not even started yet, and he’s already seen them rise to the top of one league table: our very own Gubbometer. Fulham’s fifth appearance at the tail end of MOTD this season sees them rise above Derby on Gubba difference.
A special mention for Birmingham, who are on a storming run up the Gubbometer, having been on last for three of the last four shows. The fact that they still managed to appear last this weekend, even with Tony Gubba commentating on an appalling match between Portsmouth and Middlesbrough, is testament to something special. If I ever figure out what it is, I’ll let you know.
As for Hodgson, I think he should get his £1million bonus anyway if Fulham top the Gubbometer come May.
1. Fulham: 5 (Gubba difference: +1)
2. Derby: 5 (GD: 0)
3=. Wigan: 4 (GD: +1)
3=. Reading: 4 (GD: +1)
5. Birmingham: 4 (GD: 0)
6. Bolton: 3 (GD: +1)
7=. Aston Villa: 3 (GD: 0)
7=. West Ham: 3 (GD: 0)
9. Gubba: 2
10=. Chelsea: 2 (GD: 0)
10=. Sunderland: 2 (GD: 0)
12=. Everton: 1
12=. Middlesbrough: 1
12=. Newcastle: 1
12=. Bury: 1
12=. Workington: 1
12=. Huddersfield: 1
12=. Grimsby: 1
(NB. Where teams are level, positions are decided by Gubba Difference; the number of times a team is on Match of the Day last with Tony Gubba commentating.)