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Friday October 18, 2013 MYT 9:37:01 PM
Friday October 18, 2013 MYT 9:37:12 PM
by sonia oxley
England's head coach Roy Hodgson stands in the dug out ahead of their 2014 World Cup qualifying match against Moldova at Wembley Stadium in London, September 6, 2013. REUTERS/Darren Staples
(Reuters) - England manager Roy Hodgson has quickly discovered success offers no protection from a media pummelling as his country stayed true to form by preparing for a major tournament by vilifying the man in charge.
Instead of opening the papers to bask in the joy of World Cup qualification, Hodgson found himself at the centre of a racism debate after using the "feed the monkey" punchline from an old NASA joke in his halftime team talk on Tuesday against Poland.
"We have just had a successful period and, although I wouldn't suggest we intend to rest on our laurels, I think we have earned the right to enjoy the fruits of our labours. Instead we get this," Hodgson told the Daily Mail on Friday.
His words could have come from any number of previous incumbents of a position often dubbed "the worst job in football" as the country's fickle press have turned them from heroes to villains overnight - and vice versa.
Take, for example, the gushing obituaries for Bobby Robson following his death in 2009 which were at odds with the often savage treatment he faced as national team manager between 1982 and 1990.
Dubbed "Plonker" and ordered after a 1-1 friendly draw against Saudi Arabia to "In the name of Allah - go!", he was later fondly remembered as a perfect gentleman whose 1990 side were a whisker away from a place in the World Cup final.
Fabio Capello, who oversaw a very smooth qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup, then faced criticism over his strict methods after a poor showing at the actual tournament and was mocked for his command of English.
Steve McClaren, who started England's Euro 2008 qualifying campaign reasonably well, was later branded "the wally with the brolly" as England failed to reach the continental championship.
Robson's successor Graham Taylor was the target of The Sun's "turnip" campaign which started after defeat by Sweden and a group-stage exit at the 1992 European championship with the headline "Swedes 2 Turnips 1".
His side failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup and while he left the job he never really shook off his nickname, leaving him with some advice to offer Hodgson recently.
"If England win it's thanks to the players, if they don't it's the manager's fault," Taylor said.
"If he doesn't qualify, Roy will have to handle a lot of stuff coming in his direction. What I experienced taught me a lot about life and human nature."
What Hodgson, who when he was appointed to the job could not avoid "Woy" headlines poking fun at the way his says his 'R's, perhaps did not expect was facing a negative media frenzy if his side did qualify.
He has had plenty of backing from other managers, including Arsenal's Arsene Wenger who told a news conference on Friday: "We can go a bit overboard at halftime. But all has to remain in the dressing room."
That perhaps is the real issue that will need to be addressed, once this latest furore has died down as Hodgson cannot escape the fact that one of his players broke the notion of dressing-room confidentiality to leak the story to the press.
Controversy before a big event is nothing new for the England team and as he prepares for next year's World Cup in Brazil, Hodgson can take heart from the fact it does not necessarily set them up to fail on the big stage.
Terry Venables grappled with scrutiny of his players' drinking habits in the build-up to Euro 96, where his side then reached the semi-finals of a tournament they were hosting and were lauded as "heroes".
Venables's successor Glenn Hoddle was also the subject of a media campaign after he made inappropriate comments regarding disabled people in an interview a few months after losing on penalties to Argentina in the second round of the 1998 World Cup in France.
Hoddle's fate was sealed when the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair criticised him on television, but Hodgson at least has the backing of the FA and his players and looks sure to survive what is widely being dismissed as a storm in a teacup.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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