Roy Hodgson stepped down as England manager on Monday night after Iceland inflicted one of the most humiliating defeats in the national team’s 144-year history to eliminate them from the European Championship.
England’s coach of four years, flanked by his assistants Ray Lewington and Gary Neville, delivered a statement within 20 minutes of the final whistle confirming he would be leaving his position on the expiry of his contract this month. The minimum requirement, as recently reiterated by the outgoing chairman of the Football Association, Greg Dyke, had always been a quarter-final berth at Euro 2016 for Hodgson to secure a two-year extension.
The defeat in Nice by a side playing in their first major finals ensured the 68-year-old’s time in charge is up. Hodgson, the highest-paid coach at the tournament on £3.5m a year, oversaw a solitary last-minute success over Wales between failing to overcome Russia and Slovakia before succumbing to Iceland. Lars Lagerback’s side, ranked 37 in the world, will play the hosts, France, in Paris in the last eight on Sunday.
“I’m extremely disappointed of course about tonight’s result and, ultimately, our exit from the competition,” said Hodgson, who won only three of 11 games across three major tournaments. “We haven’t progressed as far as I thought we were capable of, and that’s obviously not acceptable. I’m actually proud of the work my coaching staff and I have achieved over our time at the helm of England. The transition from the squad whose average age was 30 to now being the youngest in the tournament is both remarkable and exciting for the future of English football.
“I would have loved to stay on for another two years. However, I am pragmatic and I know we are in the results business. My contract was always up after the Euros, so now is the time for someone else to oversee the progress of this young, hungry and extremely talented group of players. They have been fantastic and have done everything that has been asked of them. When I arrived I was told players didn’t turn up to play for their country or that they pulled out at the last minute. I have not seen any of that. These players love to play for their country and their commitment has been unquestioned.”
The FA backed Hodgson’s decision to step down in its own statement, issued while the crestfallen England players were being escorted out by security staff, with only Joe Hart and Wayne Rooney opting to comment.
A spokesman for the FA said: “Like the nation, we are disappointed to lose this evening and that our run in Euro 2016 has come to a premature end. We had high hopes of progressing through to the latter stages of the competition and accept that we have not met our own expectations or those of the country. We back Roy Hodgson’s decision to step down as England manager and will discuss next steps imminently.”
The Under-21s coach, Gareth Southgate, is highly regarded by the director of elite development, Dan Ashworth, and has been mentioned as a potential successor. Neville, too, has support within the setup but he, too, fell on his sword in the wake of a defeat that draws comparison with that by 1-0 to the United States in 1950. Alan Shearer on Monday night declared an interest in the job.
“Ray and Gary arrived with me as part of my coaching team and will leave with me,” said Hodgson. “I’d like to thank them for their dedicated support and for the major part they’ve played in our team preparation. I’d like to thank all the support staff, the players, the FA and of course the fans.
“It’s been a fantastic journey, these four years, and it’s one I’ll look back on and remember with pride. I’m sorry it’s had to end this way with another exit from a tournament. These things happen. All I can do is wish everybody all the very best and hope that you will still be able to see an England team in a final of a major tournament fairly soon. We’ve been unable to deliver. Thank you very much.”
England’s players, some with tears in their eyes, had left the arena to chants of “You’re not fit to wear the shirt” and loud boos, with some fans throwing flags of St George on to the pitch in disgust. Hodgson informed them of his decision on their return to the dressing room. “Roy went around and thanked us,” said Rooney. “As a group of players we appreciate what he’s done for us. He has given a lot of players their England debuts and you can’t forget that. It is hard to see it now but the future is bright.
“The young players just need to keep their heads down. It will hurt for a while, of course. The players understand that. But you have to bounce back, that is your job, even if some might take longer than others. That will be down to the clubs to look after them.” Asked about his own future, the England captain added: “I’m proud to play for England and I’ll see who the next manager is and, if selected, I’m available to play.”
“As a group it is down to us,” said Hart. “All the plans were put in place, we knew everything about Iceland but, ultimately, we didn’t perform. It’s not a question of wanting it more. There’s nothing we want more. They are just words, though. We were in a good place but we haven’t done it. We will get a lot of flak and we deserve it. We will learn from this and try and bring English football back to where it belongs. We have put it in a low place. The next manager has a tough job on his hands. We worked hard but with no success. That is how this team will be remembered.”
Referring to Iceland’s second goal he added: “I apologise to the fans. That’s a shot I should save and it’s my fault we are out.”
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