Among the less widely reported qualities of the new England manager came the news that Roy Hodgson is a voracious reader. Having a cultural hinterland is no guarantee of onfield success – think Fabio Capello, his £10m art collection and his passion for Kandinsky – but it does offer a possible insight into his managerial style and team selection.
Hodgson says he has enjoyed nearly all the Nobel prize winners, a claim that undoubtedly makes him better-read than most literary editors and Eng lit academics. And he has almost certainly enjoyed them in the original, as Hodgson also speaks five languages. You'd be hard pushed to find a Frenchman who had read JMG Le Clézio, let alone enjoyed one of his books; but Eric Cantona, a man given to gnomic unintelligibility himself, is almost certainly one. So don't be surprised to find the gifted Frenchman drafted in as Hodgson's assistant.
John Updike also features heavily on Hodgson's reading lists, suggesting that he may have read enough about the complications of bed-hopping and infidelity to avoid being caught out like Sven. They also included that dear old Teutonic mystic, Herman Hesse, whose Siddhartha will make ideal zen-like reading when England are inevitably knocked out of Euro 2012 by the Germans in the quarter-finals. And Hodgson has a soft spot for the Czech Milan Kundera; a parting gift of The Unbearable Lightness of Being would ease Theo Walcott's departure from the England squad after flattering to deceive once too often.
But we mustn't forget the Brits, for Hodgson is also a great admirer of Martin Amis. And here he may find the most comfort: for what is Amis these days but a reminder that even the greatest of careers have a nasty habit of ending in disappointment?
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