There’s a very good article in today’s News of the World, which isn’t a sentence I often type. Paul Ince, who played under Roy Hodgson at Inter, has shared some very revealing insights into the way the Fulham manager works.
It’s well worth a read. For me, the most interesting passage comes when Ince, regarded as something of a strong character, admits that he and his fellow players wouldn’t catch Roy’s eye when he was in full flow:
PLACID, intelligent, articulate. All words that you associate with Roy Hodgson and trotted out by those people who don’t really know him so well.
But if you’d sat in a dressing room and seen him peeling the paint off the walls at half-time, you’d get a better picture of the man I’d have no hesitation in naming Manager of the Year.
I’ve never seen anybody go quite as bananas as Roy – and I include Fergie in that.
He might not get the hairdryer out right in your face in the way Fergie does but grown men don’t dare catch Roy’s eye when he’s in full rant mode.
I was fortunate to work under him at Inter Milan for three years and it was a real education and insight into a great manager.
He came to Inter when the players ruled the dressing room and, in particular, Pepe Bergomi.
Bergomi was Mr Inter. He was the captain, had the ear of the president, went out for dinner with influential supporters and basically ruled the roost.
The problem was, Pepe was past it. He only got in the team through reputation, nothing else.
Roy saw that immediately and after he replaced Ottavio Bianchi as manager, the first thing he did was drop Bergomi.
The fans went mad, there were huge inquisitions (mostly led by Bergomi himself) and all sorts of threats against Roy’s position.
But he held strong because he knew he was right.
He laid down a marker and would not be swayed even though he came under tremendous pressure. I admired that. It showed a man whose outward manner hid an inner strength and belief in himself.
We used to live fairly close to each other on Lake Como and there were many nights we’d have a meal together, Roy with his glass of red and big cigar, me listening and trying to soak up as much information and advice as I could.
It was because of Roy that I didn’t pack Inter in after a few months.
Bianchi was playing me on the left wing in a 4-5-1 formation but Roy switched to a 4-4-2, stuck me back in centre midfield and helped give me a football education I’ve never forgotten.
His CV was already packed with experience both at club and international level and he had a wisdom that rubbed off on players and gave him the immediate respect of even the biggest names. Training sessions were a joy, always fresh and packed with ideas you could easily take on board.
When he left Inter the president, Massimo Moratti, admitted that letting Roy go was the biggest mistake he made.
I see so many of the traits he bred at Inter in the current Fulham side.
They play to a system, they’re fantastically organised and they play for each other.
There are no egos or star names which lulls opponents into a false sense of security meaning they underestimate Fulham… and pay for it. I hear managers say there’s no pressure at a club like Fulham because there’s no real expectations.
Rubbish. The pressure to stay in the Premier League is immense because relegation could cost a club like Fulham so dearly. Then there’s the pressure of turning players who have been rejected by other clubs into better players through coaching and fantastic man-management.
Speak to somebody like Danny Murphy who was turfed out by Liverpool. Or Simon Davies. Or Bobby Zamora.
They will tell you Roy has improved them as players to the point Zamora is a real candidate for an England place.
You don’t beat the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus and Wolfsburg by a fluke.
You win because you’re a confident unit completely comfortable with the manager’s system and tactics, and you believe in yourselves.
Fulham are at the same stage of the Europa League as Liverpool without spending a fraction of Anfield’s budget. That says it all.
Roy is a real manager’s manager who never gets involved in controversy, just does his job properly and wins the respect of all his peers.
So while Carlo Ancelotti or whoever wins the title will always be mentioned as Manager of the Year, for me there’s only one winner… Roy Hodgson.