IAN HERBERT: Deeply thoughtful, cautious and reflective until the end, Roy Hodgson was certainly not a sound-bite merchant for the multi-media age as he steps down as Crystal Palace boss – but the game will be poorer without him
It is the search for insight that makes you buy the books the managers have read and in Stoner, written 50 years ago by the American novelist John Williams, there was a true encapsulation of Roy Hodgson, who is stepping down as Crystal Palace manager after the weekend aged 73.
It was in October 2013, after a 2-0 win over Poland had secured England’s qualification for the 2014 World Cup, that he revealed he’d read a few pages of the novel before turning out the light on the eve of that pivotal game.
It is the story of an unsensational academic who is patient, earnest, enduring and steadfast in equal measure, and who pursues and finds a cherished inner space as the world crowds in.
Crystal Palace confirmed Roy Hodgson will step down as manager at the end of the season
Hodgson has rebuilt his reputation since a tough six month stint at Liverpool over 10 years ago
That has been Hodgson in so many ways: conservative, cautious, deeply thoughtful and certainly not a sound-bite merchant for the multi-media age.
His deep conviction in team shape, which always seemed to take precedence over individual skill, meant that even those who liked working with him seemed damning at times.
Jimmy Bullard, who was very much a Hodgson enthusiast at Fulham, described him as the ‘most boring manager I’ve worked with but the best organised’.
Hodgson was asked during that World Cup how he would define his style and was reluctant.
‘You can do the defining, we work on attacking and defending,’ he replied. He didn’t go in for ‘philosophies’ because his systems were tried and tested. He stuck with what worked.
During the England period, he also picked up a translation of the novella Chess Story by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig —the story of one man’s fight against mental disintegration. That was fairly appropriate, too.
Hodgson’s fingernails were chewed to the bone by the end of Euro 2016, which brought an end that was desperately bruising.
There was an excruciating press conference after the ignominy of elimination by Iceland in the knockout stages, when Hodgson seemed affronted to be in the room, having to account for the way things had gone.
Hodgson’s time as England boss ended in ignominy after losing to Iceland at Euro 2016
Hodgson was brought in by Palace in 2017 to replace the struggles Frank de Boer as manager
If anything, the 2011 break with Liverpool after six awful months seemed to hurt him even more.
Yet amid the controversies and the egos, pomposity and posturing of the modern game, Hodgson brought a fundamental humanity and decency. He simply loves the sport he has given his life to.
That’s why those occasions when he sat down to eat and talk informally with those chronicling England stretched from lunchtime deep into the afternoon.
A particular thought or reflection would go on so long that at times all of those present had lost track of the starting point — Hodgson included.
In his four-year tenure Hodgson sealed Palace’s top flight status with 11th, 12th and 14th-placed finishes, and remains on course to achieve a similar end to the current campaign
Some bask in the 21st century spotlight but Hodgson was always wary of it. When he had recovered from the England distress and was rebuilding so successfully at Crystal Palace, he reflected on the value of circumspection.
‘I think it’s dangerous, directly after a game, to go out with the emotions you are feeling and speak, because you can make mistakes,’ he said. ‘You need to settle down.’
It was for good reason that Hodgson’s Palace chairman Steve Parish reflected on Tuesday that he had learned something every day from Hodgson. The game will be poorer without him.
Palace chairman Steve Parish led the tributes to veteran boss Hodgson on social media