Tom Bodell looks at Roy Hodgson’s first appointment as England manager.
The announcement last Friday evening that Fulham coach Ray Lewington had been appointed to Roy Hodgson’s England staff for EURO 2012 raised a few eyebrows. A quick scan of the Twittersphere told me so.
This wide-spread scepticism was born solely out of the fact that few people have actually heard of Ray Lewington. Save for the few clubs inside the M25 that Lambeth-born Lewington has coached at, he is very much an unknown quantity with the wider football population who still seem put out that Harry Redknapp is not the man putting together his coaching staff right now.
Had Redknapp have been handed the reins you can be sure that he would have called upon the services of his faithful number two Kevin Bond, this appointment is no different in that respect. Lewington managed Watford between the summer of 2002 and March 2005 without distinction to the casual observer, however to those who were fully aware of the lingering threat of administration in the wake of the ITV digital collapse and Luca Vialli’s disastrous reign, Lewington achieved something remarkable.
Whilst his latest challenge sees him take to the international stage, there are many qualities that the 55 year-old displayed during his Vicarage Road tenure that will stand him in good stead in Poland and Ukraine this summer.
Without the proverbial pot to urinate in, Lewington somehow fostered a strong team spirit within the camp which saw the Hornets flirt with the Play Offs early on before finishing middle of the pack. His second season saw the side finish a tad lower and by March 2005, he was sacked for a run of six defeats, somewhat harsh considering it was the only truly bad run of form he has presided over.
An F.A Cup semi-final appearance and a League Cup semi-final appearance can also be found on Lewington’s C.V from his time in WD18. However, Lewington’s legacy will also include bringing through the likes of Ashley Young and Hameur Bouazza as well as advancing the career of Heidar Helguson; all players who went on to play in the Premier League having benefitted from his wisdom at Watford’s London Conley training ground.
He is widely regarded as an excellent coach, and the fact that he has been part of the furniture at Fulham since leaving Watford is testament to that fact with any number of high-calibre managers coming through the door at Craven Cottage during his most recent association with the Cottagers.
I have only met Lewington the once, at a club open day in 2004. At the time I would have been 12, and having plucked up the courage to go over and ask for an autograph, I took the opportunity to ask about a player that the official site had listed on our squad list, (this was before rolling news & Twitter so to my mind the only way of garnering information). He signed my poster whilst politely explaining that he had not even heard of the player in question, Terry Masterson.
Whilst Lewington might not lend the same glamour to the England bench that Franco Baldini did under Fabio Capello the importance of a good right-hand man can never be understated, and in Lewington, Hodgson has exactly that, as well as an excellent coach and true gentleman.