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In a professional coaching career that has spanned 36 years and taken in stops in soccer outposts from Finland to the United Arab Emirates, Roy Hodgson has earned a reputation for taking mediocre teams to major finals.
In that sense, he may be the perfect candidate for his latest post: Manager of England`s national team.
Despite being the country that invented soccer, England hasn`t won an international tournament since 1966 and in recent years has suffered through a string of disappointments, failing to beat such soccer weaklings as Algeria and Montenegro. The English didn`t even qualify for Euro 2008.
But as Hodgson was unveiled Tuesday as the surprise choice to succeed Fabio Capello, his appointment wasn`t exactly greeted with unbridled fervor.
"In terms of a coach, he`s very much glass half-empty rather than glass half-full," said Mark Lawrenson, the former Liverpool defender. "I believe he is the second choice, whatever the [English Football Association] says."
Mark Perryman, a spokesman for the England Supporters Club, said: "I don`t think there will be a great wave of enthusiasm about Hodgson."
The howls of disappointment are partly down to the fact that Hodgson was given the role ahead of Harry Redknapp, the presumptive favorite for the post ever since Capello vacated the role in February.
Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur head coach, is the architect of arguably the most attractive team in the English Premier League and a charismatic figure whose candidacy was swiftly endorsed by Sir Alex Ferguson and senior England players from Rio Ferdinand to Wayne Rooney. In contrast, Hodgson is a low-key presence who`s more at home in his track suit on the training ground than sitting in front of a television camera.
But the biggest source of disgruntlement among England followers is that Hodgson has what appears to be a rather lowly record for a post that remains one of the country`s highest honors. Though he has coached in eight countries and won 13 trophies, including titles in Sweden and Denmark, he has never led a team to a major European trophy or league championship.
In addition, his three biggest assignments have ended in failure. Hodgson flamed out after less than two seasons at Blackburn and Inter Milan, while his tenure at Liverpool lasted just 191 days and ended with the storied English club perilously close to the Premier League relegation zone.
Since joining West Bromwich Albion last year, he has lost as many matches as he`s won and his team is 10th in the 20-team Premier League. "He has had his successes and failures and it does worry me a bit that he was disappointing at Liverpool," said Mick Mills, the former England captain. "Maybe that tells you he is not so good with the top players."
Here`s the thing: Lately, he`s not alone. One of the most surprising developments in international soccer is how few leading national coaches have the kind of glittering résumés you`d expect of them.
Of the 16 nations competing at this summer`s Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, only four are coached by managers who have a won a major international or club trophy or championship in one of Europe`s biggest leagues (England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain).
In contrast, six of the 16 coaches at Euro 2004 had done so, while eight of the 16 at Euro 1996 had one of those successes to their credit.
Some leading contenders at this summer`s Euro 2012 will be coached by men with a record of major titles that Pep Guardiola, the FC Barcelona coach, would reasonably expect to eclipse in a single season. Germany coach Joachim Low`s lone championship was in the Austrian league, Portugal`s Paulo Bento has never won a league title of any sort, while Cesare Prandelli, Italy`s coach, has landed one Serie B title.
In other words, international soccer is in the midst of a brain drain.
"The brightest coaches and the sharpest minds aren`t going into international football," said Tony Cottee, a former England player and now a soccer analyst. "There`s not a very deep pool to choose from."
Some say the questionable credentials of these coaches are a reflection of the changing priorities in the world`s most popular sport. Not so long ago, international soccer was the pinnacle of the game. It produced the most innovative tactics and thrilling teams, from the free-flowing Dutch "Total Football" squad in the 1970s to the four-man attack Brazil unleashed at the 1958 World Cup.
But these days, the professional game has eclipsed international play. The UEFA Champions League is now the showcase for the greatest players and sharpest coaches, while the World Cup is frequently derided as boring.
It may be that coaches are entering the international arena at a younger age, which means they have little time to plunder trophies. International coaching was long seen as an older man`s game, since it lacked the day-to-day demands of club management. But three of the 16 coaches at Euro 2012 have less than five years of club experience.
But the biggest reason may be the growing consensus that coaching at club and international level require vastly different skill sets.
The limited number of games played in international soccermost nations play about a dozen each season, of which half are friendliesmeans there is little time available to develop tactical cohesion. The result: Most coaches focus on implementing straightforward systems based around organization and defensive solidity. The fact that there are so few games also means the stakes are always high, which may discourage experimentation.
So Hodgson, who has a knack for turning a ragtag roster of misfits into well-drilled overachievers by preaching fundamentals, may be a better fit for England than his record suggests.
"There`s an argument to be made that he`s actually more qualified than some of the big-name coaches out there," said Luke Smith, a member of the England support group. "Don`t forget, these guys are hardly world-beaters."