Sweden a second home to Hodgson

Date published: Thursday 14th June 2012 4:51

On Friday Hodgson will attempt to hit them where it hurts, advancing England’s Euro 2012 cause whilst dumping the Swedes out of the competition, trying to put a different spin on that damning ‘Sweden 2 Turnips 1’ headline from 1992.

If he achieves that aim, few in Sweden will condemn Hodgson.

Legendary status is not lost on the back of one result.

Few in Sweden had heard of Hodgson when he was recommended for a coaching job at Halmstad by Bobby Houghton, his former manager at Maidstone.

Yet such was the impression Houghton had made in his own transition to the Swedish league, officials at Halmstad took him at his word.

Never in their wildest dreams could they imagine the move would be so successful.

In his first season, Hodgson transformed a team tipped for relegation into title winners for the first time in their history.

It was his “water into wine” moment, Hodgson later recounted.

Three seasons later, they did it again. The legend was starting to take shape.

Hodgson’s secret, such as it was, involved following Houghton in snubbing the widespread Swedish sweeper system in favour a British flat back four, pressing the ball, condensing the space and moving possession from back to front far quicker than had previously been the case.

A brief spell at Bristol City proved unsuccessful but such was Hodgson’s status in Sweden that another job offer was not long in coming.

Oddevold brought him back into the fold. A short stint at Orebro followed.

Then came five seasons at Malmo that ended with him literally being offered a job for life.

At the club’s new Swedbank stadium, they have a ‘Roy’s Corner’, a rather fitting tribute to a man who completed five straight top-of-the-table finishes, won two championships – that required play-offs – and a couple of Swedish Cups.

Yet Hodgson’s greatest achievement with Malmo was knocking Inter Milan out of the European Cup.

“He came to Sweden unknown but became a big name because of results at his clubs,” said current Sweden coach Erik Hamren.

“He brought new ideas into Swedish football.

“He is a big name now but we will never forget what he has done for Swedish football.”

The tie was only severed in 1990 when Hodgson opted for a complete change of direction, joining Neuchâtel Xamax.

He has had 14 managerial jobs since, culminating in his current one, the fulfilment of his entire career.

Hodgson never came back to Sweden though the opportunity undoubtedly existed.

There are even suggestions he was sounded out about taking over as the national team boss during his time at Fulham after Lars Lagerback had resigned.

It is said Hodgson did not feel the time was right for such a move and politely declined, only to leave Craven Cottage himself at the end of that season, when Liverpool came calling.

Maybe Hodgson should be thankful for that unhappy spell at Anfield, otherwise he might not have ended up trying to make the Three Lions roar.

However, even if they manage to take a large bite out of Sweden tomorrow, their fans will forgive.

That’s what happens when you are a hero.

By Simon Stone

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