PICTURE the scene: A Saturday morning. You’re lying in bed with your loved one, daylight starting to seep through the curtains, a breakfast DJ chirruping from the radio. As the first sounds of the day guide you gently towards wakefulness, your partner turns to you, head propped up on one arm, and whispers gently: “What are you thinking?”
Obviously, you’re thinking about the vastly differing financial strengths of Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur. At least, you are if you’re Roy Hodgson.
“I was lying in bed this morning going through our financial situations,” Hodgson said after yesterday’s 0-0 draw with Tottenham.
“I did a calculation in my head of how much this Spurs team cost to assemble – not lamenting, but certainly comparing it to what it cost to put our side together. It’s a great credit to our club.”
This is a rare insight into Hodgson’s home life. He’s not the sort to throw open his front doors to Hello! magazine. It got me curious. I wanted to find out more. A quick scout around the internet threw up the following two gems:
1) When he met his wife, Croydon-born Hodgson decided to impress her by lying about his nationality. “My wife always claims that when I met her, I told her I had Italian origins,” he once said. “I can’t believe I was clever enough to do that, but there was obviously something that attracted me to the country.”
2) Just before he was offered – and accepted – the Fulham job in December 2007, Mr and Mrs Hodgson had booked themselves a Christmas holiday in Torquay. “My wife found an ad for a Christmas break in Torquay,” he explained earlier this year. “We’d not had an English Christmas for the last 10, 15 years. We planned that, then two days before getting on the plane from Milan to go, I got a phone call asking to meet with Fulham.”
In an era when leading out-of-work football personalities could probably go to the Moon for Christmas if they really wanted to, there’s something reassuring about a pre-Fulham Hodgson planning a Christmas break in Torquay.
These days, a Christmas break would be the last thing on his mind.
Last night’s final match: Fulham 0 Tottenham 0
Commentator: Jonathan Pearce
A couple of weeks ago, there was a fair bit of hoohah about Tottenham’s Christmas party arrangements. Harry Redknapp didn’t want his players to have one, so they told him they were going to Dublin to play some golf – then had a party anyway. Redknapp was decidedly miffed when he found out, but it all seems to have been resolved amicably enough.
In the immediate aftermath of the furore, though, Sky Sports News got their reporters to ask various Premier League managers for their views on Christmas parties. And Hodgson revealed that he had never organised one in his life.
“I’ve never organised a Christmas party,” he said. “The players I dare say will because they are human beings like the rest of society and if they do expect them to behave sensibly.
“Christmas has never played a big part in my life because I have always been involved in football.”
So there you have it. Roy Hodgson: Loves Devon and Italy, not so keen on Christmas parties, spends his Saturday mornings weighing up the financial strength of his opponents. Oh, and he’s a bloody good football manager too.
Hodgson was pleased with a Boxing Day point at Craven Cottage, but it would have been three had Tottenham keeper Heurelho Gomes not made a couple of great saves to deny former Spurs striker Bobby Zamora. It’s unusual for Zamora not to score these days.
It wasn’t so unusual, though, for this game to be last on Match of the Day. In fact, Tottenham v Fulham – at White Hart Lane – was the final game on MOTD last Boxing Day. And that was a 0-0 draw too. I suppose this was the equivalent of getting the same book for Christmas two years running. Perhaps Hodgson is right not to get too excited about the festive season after all.
1. Blackburn: 5 (GD: 1. 2L: 2.)
2. Portsmouth: 4 (GD: 1. 2L: 0.)
3. Stoke: 4 (GD: 0. 2L: 2.)
4. West Ham: 3 (GD: 1. 2L: 1.)
5. Everton: 3 (GD: 1. 2L: 0.)
6. Hull: 3 (GD: 0. 2L: 4.)
7. Wigan: 3 (GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
8. Aston Villa: 3 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
9. Gubba: 2 (GD: 2. 2L: 2.)
10. Bolton: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 5.)
11. Fulham: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 4.)
12. Wolves: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 3.)
13=. Birmingham: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 4.)
13=. Burnley: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 4.)
15. Tottenham: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 2.)
16. Liverpool: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
17. Sunderland: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 4.)
18=. Arsenal: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
18=. Chelsea: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
20=. Manchester City: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
20=. Manchester United: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
GD = Gubba difference
2L = On second last (Last night’s penultimate match was: Burnley 1 Bolton 1.)
(NB. Teams will receive one point for every time they appear last on MOTD. Appearances on MOTD2 are not included. Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference – the number of times a team is on last with Tony Gubba commentating. Teams still level will then be separated by the number of times they appear second last on MOTD.)