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Does Roy Hodgson Know Too Much?

“My response is probably not what the curators from Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries and the New York Public Library’s Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection had in mind,” writes Paula Martinez Cohen in her recent article in The Smart Set (of H.L. Mencken fame), adding, “But who knows if my response is typical. Perhaps everyone else will think Shelley and his friends were really cool.”

Her conclusion, drawn from viewing the exhibition “Shelley’s Ghost: The Afterlife of a Poet,” now at the New York Public Library, is perhaps best boiled down thusly:

“The exhibit demonstrates, with dramatic succinctness, that Percy Bysshe Shelley and some of those he hung out with were pretty shitty people. I’m not talking about the sort of shittiness that we associate with, say, Ezra Pound or Martin Heidegger, whose politics were repugnant. No one likes a fascist, at least in the abstract. But Shelley had politics that were progressive and humanitarian, which may make things worse.”

In other words, there’s something more disappointing about a mistake (whether made maliciously or not) when we assume that the offender knows better. This assumption is being lumped with eagerly held pitchforks, and I think with a certain validity, from all sides onto the back of Roy Hodgson. He was presumably picked to head the English national side because he knows better: about tactics, about international competition, about building systems. But this presumed knowledge may make things worse for Hodgson, who has managed sixteen different teams in eight countries.

I’m going to stay comfortably away from the edge of the proverbial limb here by predicting that no matter who Roy Hodgson selects for his English National Team squad for Euro 2012, he’ll be criticized—both for being too close to FA politics and too far away from them simultaneously. He’s supposed to know how “it works,” and by “it” I mean the machinations of the English football hierarchy and by “works” I mean stagnates in personality clashes and petty provincialism. But either way, Hodgson is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, to paraphrase the well-known (if not trite) colloquialism.

Take, for prime example, the selection of the captain. If Hodgson goes with John Clint-Eastwood-in-Gran-Torino Terry, then it will be seen as either a reliance on the old guard, a kowtowing to an offensive bully, or both. Not selecting Terry will be seen as a snub to one of the “heroes” of Chelsea’s recent run (without which England would be sorely absent from Champions League discussions), an irreverence of the old guard, and a particularly personal jab at Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard. (And of course if he goes with Gerrard it will be seen as nepotistic or pedestrian.) Since people assume he knows what he’s doing, any choice will somehow seem bizarre at best. At worst, it will seem either cynical, banal, or dunce-headed (after all, he should know better!).

Hodgson just can’t win. It’s a strange case where he seems to be too experienced to be successful. He knows too much.

Count me in the camp of people who think that England should have gone with someone motivational over someone knowledgeable, and someone new to the English system over someone with pedigree. Don’t get me wrong; ‘Arry would elicit the same cautions (and I consider myself cautiously optimistic). But at least he can motivate, and I rarely assume when analyzing his mistakes that he honestly knows better.