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If longevity was the measure of management qualities then there would be no question over Roy Hodgson’s standing in the pantheon of great football managers.

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson salutes the fans
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson salutes the fans

Some 45 years have passed since he took his first steps into coaching, with Swedish side Halmstad.

A further 15 club appointments sit alongside four national team jobs. Nobody can question Hodgson’s experience.

But if tomorrow’s match in charge of Crystal Palace at one of his former clubs – Liverpool – is to be his last as a manager, the 73-year old will leave a much more conflicting legacy than he might wish for. For every triumph there has been a failure to match.

One particular three-season spell stands out as an illustration of this.

Hodgson guided Fulham to their first ever European final in the 2009/10 campaign, a Europa League campaign that included a spectacular 4-1 home win over Juventus to overturn a 3-1 first leg deficit.

After losing to Atletico Madrid in the final, he was snapped up by Liverpool, who were seeking a replacement for the long-serving Rafa Benitez.

Hodgson barely saw out half of the 2010/11 campaign, leaving the Reds in January with the club 12th in the table. A 4-2 home defeat to League Two Northampton Town one of many lows in a short Anfield tenure not helped by signings like Christian Poulson and Paul Konchesky.

Almost immediately Hodgson returned to management with West Bromwich Albion, guiding the club to 11th in the table after the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo. In 2011/12 he went one place better, taking the Baggies to its highest finish since 1981 in a season that included the memorable high of a 5-1 away win at Black Country rivals Wolves.

If his reputation was repaired after the Liverpool debacle, it was back on the floor following his next role, with England. Finishing bottom of the group in the 2014 World Cup was bad enough, but two years later he oversaw a last 16 defeat at the European Championships in France to minnows Iceland.

A bizarre exit from his England role followed.

“I don’t really know what I am doing here,” he said at a hastily arranged press conference in Chantilly, having resigned as manager the previous night.

“My time has gone but I was told it was important that I appear here. I guess that is partly because people are smarting from the defeat last night that saw us leave the tournament. “I suppose someone has to stand and take the slings and arrows that come with it.”

The comments displayed a lack of awareness and responsibility in the wake of the embarrassing climax to an underwhelming four years in charge of England.

At Crystal Palace, he once again proved himself as a capable club manager.

After taking over a side that had lost its opening four games without scoring a goal, he led the south London club to 11th in the table in 2017/18.

After receiving a guard of honour ahead of his last home game on Wednesday night, fittingly with fans back at Selhurst Park, defender Patrick Van Aanholt gave this tribute: “Gaffer, it’s hard to say how much respect and appreciation I have for you. You’ve helped me develop not only as a player but as a man.”

At Fulham, Albion and Crystal Palace he brought security to groups of players not familiar with extended spells in the Premier League.

He was able to exceed expectations by hammering into his players the importance of discipline on the pitch.

“Every session is organised to drill you into playing a certain way of football,” said former Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, during his time at Craven Cottage.

“Every player knows exactly what position they need to take when they have possession of the ball. Every player knows they have an outlet.”

But at Liverpool and England, where ambitions extended beyond mid-table security, Hodgson lowered expectations and suffered the consequences.

Where Albion and Fulham supporters will speak at length about his transformative qualities, Liverpool and England fans barely disguise their contempt for his methods.

After a playing career that barely registered, in non-league football, also marred by a spell playing in apartheid South Africa, the man himself will certainly be entitled to look back on the last 45 years of coaching with great pride. He was never afraid to challenge himself in foreign fields, although those early successes in Sweden must come with a caveat about the standard of competition.

Hodgson gained several lifetime’s worth of experiences and, despite working well into his eighth decade, he has retained an impressive ability to connect with players 50 years his junior.

Among Hodgson’s peers there is almost universal respect. “One of the very greats of our business,” said Jurgen Klopp this week, ahead of their meeting on Sunday. “I knew him long before I met him but when I met him, it was even better because he’s a really nice guy.”

“It’s been a pleasure and an honour to share the touchline with a legend like Mr. Roy Hodgson,” Jose Mourinho added. “Congratulations for your amazing career, a genuine gentleman that will be truly missed by everyone in football.”

He leaves the Premier League with tributes ringing in his ears yet it is hard to escape the thought that whoever he was in charge of, Manchester City or Mansfield, he’d still find a way to finish in 11th place.

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