Roy Hodgson or Harry Redknapp? The FA indicates that it has solved a dilemma

April 30, 2012

An FA statement indicates that it is preparing to approach Roy Hodgson for the vacant post of England team manager. But have they solved their dilemma?

Updated post after appointment of Roy Hodgson [1st May 2012]

A terse announcement from the Football Association [29th April 2012] triggered speculation concerning the appointment of a new manager for the England Football team. The story may not be as simple as that.

The FA statement

West Bromwich Albion have today granted permission for The FA to speak with Roy Hodgson regarding the position of England Manager. This follows an approach from FA Chairman David Bernstein to West Bromwich Albion Chairman Jeremy Peace.

David Bernstein said: “I’m grateful to Jeremy and all at West Bromwich Albion for their co-operation in allowing us to approach Roy, who I have since spoken with. Roy is the only manager we have approached and we remain on course to make an appointment within the timescale we set-out soon after Fabio Capello’s departure. Further conversations will now take place with Roy and my Club England colleagues before any further announcements can be made.”

The Daily Mirror called it a surprise move. The Mail “an astonishing decision”.

Harry Redknapp, The Tottenham Hotspur manager, has been a strong favourite and would have been a popular appointment.

Dilemmas in the appointment process

The FA received considerable criticism over the way the appointment of the last England manager, the Italian Fabio Capello. As is inevitably the case, there were difficulties of timing then, as now. This track record of presumed bungling may have added to the concern in the FA to avoid accusations of bad timing again. Rednapp’s team is intensely engaged in a battle to secure a place in the European Cup competition next season, while Hodgson’s West Ham may be considered as having a less-focussed immediate concerns (although their fans may disagree).

The dilemma may have been how to address an overriding concern of the FA to make an appointment without drawing attention to possible bungling in the process. If so, initial reactions suggest they have not achived public support for their choice.

The Official announcement

The Press Conference [May 1st 2012] announcing the appointment and also revealed to FA’s official position. As the Press Release put it:

“Hodgson, aged 64, who has won a total of eight league titles in a distinguished career, and coached the national teams of Switzerland, Finland and the United Arab Emirates, met with FA officials at Wembley on Monday.

Having taken Switzerland to the FIFA World Cup in 1994 – their first Finals competition for 28 years – Hodgson also achieved [for Switzerland] a FIFA ranking of third in the world as well as successfully qualifying the team for Euro 96.

His former clubs include Inter Milan, Blackburn Rovers, Grasshoppers, FC Copenhagen, Fulham and Liverpool. He has also managed in Norway and Sweden. In addition, he has been a regular member of FIFA and UEFA’s technical study groups at tournaments.

Along with his vast experience of international and European football, Hodgson is the only English manager currently working in the top flight to have won the League Managers’ Association manager of the year award.”

What can we interpret from the statement?

There is a lot of evidence presented by the FA which indicateds why Roy Hodgson can be considered a strong candidate for the post. The unwritten information is what made the media find the decision such an unexpected one. Why was there such a widespread belief that Harry Redknapp was the front-runner? Suggestions welcomed.

Wolves faced a leadership dilemma over Mick McCarthy: what might the board have done differently?

February 25, 2012

Terry Connor

One of the most difficult dilemmas facing a sporting business occurs if the board decides that a leadership change is necessary. Wolves FC serves as a case study.

The pressures on the board at Wolves FC mounted as the team struggled to escape relegation [Jan 2012]. Mick McCarthy as head coach bore the brunt of the anger from frustrated fans. The board decides to fire McCarthy. After some delay the chairman announces the appointment of Terry Connor, McCarthy’s assistant

The dilemma: terms of engagement

The difficulties facing the board must have been relatively easy to simplify into finding a decisive course of action to kick-start a reversal of fortunes. Firing McCarthy and bringing in a new chief coach would offer the prospects of radical change. On the other hand, firing McCarthy would leave the club with the possibility that any high-calibre manager would be in a strong position to negotiate advantageous terms.

Intended and unintended consequences

The intended consequences of firing McCarthy would be renewed support from the fans and players alike. The unintended consequences included the possibility that no deal could be brokered. Also, as McCarthy argued, he had several exceptional seasons at Wolves working with limited resources. His dismissal would have sent warning signals to prospective managers

The fall-back position

Under such circumstances, a board needs some holding position. Wolves first indicated their intention of finding an experienced replacement for McCarthy. It seems several such candidates were approached. Eventually the club announced an interim appointment. McCarthy’s deputy Terry Connor would be promoted with the possibility of a full-time contract, according to results.

Just like the appointment of Stuart Pearce by the FA?

There appear to be some similarities to the position facing the English FA recently [2012] as the contract with current manager Fabio Capello approaches its termination date. There has been media clamour for appointment of Tottenham’s Harry Redknapp. The FA decided to go for a holding position, appointing Steward Pearce as an interim manager.

When the two cases are compared, it is seem that the FA could (for once) be seen as avoiding a tricky premature decision. Redknapp has shown interest in taking a part-time appointment. And there is some evidence of longer-term planning. Pearce as youth team coach has been seen as being groomed as a possible future England manager. On the other hand, Connor’s interim appointment could have been made immediately as the unfortunate McCarthy was being relieved of his duties. It appeared to follow failed attempts by the board to attract an experienced manager to the club.

Leadership issues

The case raises interesting issues. There is the tricky question of promoting someone who was himself appointed by the manager that had just been fired. There is the issue of the ways in which a change can appear to have been mishandled. This is where students of leadership may find it useful to think themselves in the minds of the board and assess the likely dilemmas they faced.
An additional issue: The appointment of a black manager to Premier League football is surely worthy of comment. The press broadly avoided comment on the story. Which maybe itself is worth a little reflection..