Somewhere within the sprawling narrative of Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov, you’ll come across a literary oddity entitled Parable of the Grand Inquisitor. A short tangent but an intriguing one nonetheless, it tells the story of Jesus’ return to Earth as the fifteenth century gives way to the sixteenth and sees the second coming occur in Seville with no hint of celestial fanfare. Nevertheless, the unannounced stranger causes quite a stir as he goes about restoring a blind man’s eyesight and resurrecting a recently deceased child of seven years.
The latter miracle is witnessed by the town’s Grand Inquisitor, – “an aged man, almost ninety, tall and upright in stature, with a shrivelled face and deeply recessed eyes, in which, however, there still burned a gleam of light”. Playing on the terror amongst the populus that he possesses, the old man has Jesus arrested with no protestations by those witnessing these strange occurrences. He visits Jesus in his cell and amidst a moral and theological debate asks him:
“Why hast Thou come now to hinder us? For Thou hast come to hinder us, and Thou knowest that..?”
When Jesus refuses to renounce God and work with the Catholic church for devilish and earthly gain, he is sentenced to the stake. But when he gives a kiss of forgiveness to the Grand Inquisitor, he is banished into the darkness, never to return.
Still with me? Hope so.
Because in that somewhat over-extended metaphor perhaps lies the reason behind the histrionic and at times grotesque reaction to the appointment of Roy Hodgson as the next England manager in place of the Peoples’ Choice, Harry Redknapp earlier this week. Of course, I don’t mean to suggest that Hodgson should be elevated to the status of all-healing messiah but what I am saying is that not too many journalists in the football press were happy with the Football Association going against the wishes of the press corp, the England squad, the Great British Public and maybe even Her Majesty herself. “The FA went for Roy Hodgson? How dare they! And they didn’t have the decency to offer us the option of a phone vote!”
It would appear that Hodgson did not fit into the narrative these journalists had decided for the future of English football, just as Jesus’ return did not fit in with the Grand Inquisitor’s lust for power. Hodgson would not be the kind of manager who would be willing to pull down his car window and provide a snappy, media savvy soundbite for the unquenchable appetites of the twenty-four hour sports ‘news’ channels, that would in turn be pored over by cod-analysts and shoved down the gullet of an ever-hungry paying Sky (oops, did I just say it?) customer. Nor would he apparently be the kind of manager who would throw his arms around his players and whisper sweet nothings into their ears and massage their fragile little egos. The poor lambs! In other words, Roy wasn’t Harry.
What Roy is though, is a sophisticated and cultured man. He is a speaker of several languages and provided the source material for a section of Sebastian Faulkes’ One Day In December. I appreciate that that doesn’t necessarily make him the overwhelming candidate for the job but then again, Redknapp unashamedly boasted during his trial for tax evasion earlier this year that he could barely read, couldn’t text and had never sent an e-mail. As an ambassador for England, which of the two would you rather have represent you?
The managerial merits of Hodgson speak for themselves (his Liverpool misadventure notwithstanding). I don’t need to detail them. All you need to do is Google his name or read a decent profile of him written recently to see what he has achieved in the game. He’s what I like to call an Honest Manager.
However, because he wasn’t Redknapp he was instantly subjected to the routine ritual humiliation that most England managers don’t receive until at least after they have failed miserably at a major tournament. A newspaper, whose proprietor was deemed “not fit to run a company” this week, instead of being chastened and humbled after its sister paper’s demise sought to grasp at straws and mock Hodgson on its front page for his minor speech impediment the day after he was appointed. And elsewhere, even highly regarded journalists like James Lawton attempted to shoot Hodgson down before he had had a chance to even get suited for a blazer.
By choosing Hodgson, the FA pricked the self-importance of some big beasts. Perhaps even Redknapp’s. Rather than ‘playing safe’, they actually showed that they were willing to stand their own ground and not dance to the tune of frenzied bandwagoning. After all, they are not an elected body. They don’t really have to explain their decisions to anybody. And what if the decision was left to the public to decide upon? As I mentioned last week, peoples’ opinions can be so easily manipulated that you can’t always trust their decisions. Not when there are opinion-setters who have a clear agenda bombarding your senses every waking hour.
That’s how we end up with Boris Johnson being re-elected as mayor of London or some hogwash like Transformers winning the Peoples’ Choice at the BAFTAs instead of that life-affirming film from Iran that has too many subtitles for you to bother with. Democracy’s imperfect that way. But let’s not denigrate the England job any more than it has been for years by giving in to popularity rather than qualifications.
I guess what I’m saying is that Roy Hodgson deserves a fair stab at the job. He shouldn’t be judged on England’s performances at the European Championships but I would hope that he is bold enough to bring the curtain down on some of the England careers of the self-styled “Golden Generation”. You never know, he might really, actually prove to be a very quiet messiah.
As for Harry, if he wants it, he’s got a whole season ahead of him in Europe next season. Just depends on which competition. My eyes might just have seen the glory. Come on you Spurs!
Further reading: Don’t Go Harry: Why Redknapp Should Stay At Spurs
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Dispatches’ Canvey Island Discs was featured over at Bifurcated this week. Great website, whether or not you’re a Man U fan. Check out my choices here.