Roy Hodgson: What I've Learned

The man in control of England's World Cup progress reveals his life lessons

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It’s Roy. No middle name. Just Roy.

I was brought up in Croydon. My father was a bus driver and then a salesman for a company that manufactured car parts. My mother took on part-time jobs sometimes to help out with things that I wanted to do. I remember that she took on a job in a local café to earn some extra money for me
to go on a school trip. I just took it for granted that all of these things should come to me. Now, when you look back, you realise what enormous sacrifices they made.

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I enjoy Chagall’s paintings very much, especially the blue ones and those set in Vitebsk. I couldn’t put a name to them.

I don’t sit around wondering, “Why am I here? Who made the stars?” I prefer to look at the stars and benefit from them rather than concern myself with how they got there.

I was so fully involved in football and building a career that I didn’t spend nearly enough time with my son when he was growing up. Everything’s worked out well. We have a very good relationship, but it’s more by luck than judgement. I would advise fathers to do a lot more and a lot better than I did.

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It shouldn’t be mystical in any way, the England national team manager’s job; within any top job in football there is a big pressure on you to get results. It is a unique position because of the importance of it to so many people but you’re still managing a group of football players. I just happen to think that if you’re lucky enough to manage your national team then that should be regarded as the pinnacle of your career.

Which books could I recommend? Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks… Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig… A Fairy Tale of New York by JP Donleavy. That’ll do for three, won’t it? I’m not one who reads thrillers. I quite liked Dostoyevsky when I was younger. I enjoyed Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain and Confessions of Felix Krull, but I found Doctor Faustus hard going. I gave up on that.

My job is to make certain – just like the conductor of the orchestra – that the person who is playing for my team feels good about himself. They’re human beings, they’re not robots.

I’ve got to start to do more exercise.

Groucho Marx quite famously said that money doesn’t necessarily make you unhappy. He’s not totally wrong on that one. We don’t spend a lot, my wife and I. We could spend more. I don’t feel the need to have a particular car or to eat in Michelin-starred restaurants. [The suit that I'm wearing] is the only tailor-made suit I’ve got. The others are all bought off the peg.

I’m not very good at sports where there’s no ball; if it’s a matter of pure physical prowess, then I’m pretty poor. I played a lot of tennis from about 1980 through to the Nineties, but then I ran out of partners. If you’re an amateur tennis player, then your mate who you play with has got to be just about the same level as you; if he’s too good or too bad then there’s no point in having a game. Golf is a bit easier, though, as you can play with people that are a lot better and it doesn’t really matter.

You go for these medicals and they ask, “Do you smoke?” I used to like a cigar. They’d say, “Well, if you’re wise you’ll stop that. You’ve got nothing to gain by it but plenty to lose.” And my wife was always on at me. Anyway, it’s become so antisocial. Where could you really smoke a cigar now other than in your own home? I didn’t do it that much. We’d have a nice dinner, a good glass of red wine and the cigar finished the meal off. That’s how I smoked. I gave it up about 10 years ago.

Those pieces of advice that you get as a child from your parents are quite often the important ones for life. Don’t look down on people if you’re moving up the ladder because you never know when it’s going to be your turn to slip down; treat others as you would expect to be treated yourself. All very simple stuff.

I can get by quite well in Italian or German, though if the discussion got to a high level I’d run out of vocabulary. I’m stronger in French and Swedish.

Players are capable of producing the type of football that we see today because the pitches are like bowling greens where you don’t have to worry about being ankle-deep in mud or balls bouncing awkwardly… or not bouncing at all. The surfaces that Bobby Charlton played on and the surfaces that people are playing on now, they’re like night and day.

My wife would certainly want me as far away from the kitchen as possible. I admire the younger generation who’ve taken an interest in cooking and can prepare meals. I’m hopeless.

I’m happiest when a game has just ended and we’ve got a victory. You’re looking forward to the days ahead knowing that you’re able to bask in that victory just as you fear the defeats because that brings about the opposite. You tend to wallow in the defeats.

When people say that they’re not bothered by what people write about them, it’s very often untrue. It does bother you.

I’m still enthusiastic, which is important in my job. I try not to dwell too much on the bad things and keep myself lively and positive. I would wish to avoid cynicism and weariness at all costs. I’m not a lover of cynics.

I’ve only been to one ballet, which was Giselle at La Scala. The music was fantastic but unfortunately I don’t understand enough about the dancing so I can’t say that I’m a ballet fan, although I did see a wonderful documentary about Margot Fonteyn recently.

It’d be nice to be like Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey and be quite prepared to say exactly what you think at any time.

I’m in the entertainment business. I don’t wish to denigrate the importance of things like musicals and singing and theatre, but in the grand scheme of things you have to accept that doctors and nurses, for example, play a much bigger role. I try to keep that in some sort of perspective. In our small way, I like to think that we make some people’s lives a bit more pleasant while they’re on the Earth.

Do your job, be happy and let the birds sing.


Sir Geoff Hurst
Yohan Blake
Roberto Mancini

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