England gamble on 'safe option' Hodgson
All roads appeared to lead to Harry Redknapp as England's next manager - but it now looks like Roy Hodgson will be plotting England's route through Euro 2012.
The emphatic tone of Football Association chairman David Bernstein's statement painted Hodgson as the first and only choice to succeed Fabio Capello rather than a smokescreen to flush Redknapp out of White Hart Lane.
Tottenham manager Redknapp may have been "The People's Choice" when Capello quit in February but it appears the FA's four-man selection panel of Bernstein, FA general secretary Alex Horne, director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking and managing director of Club England Adrian Bevington have opted for the conservative approach.
Roy Hodgson is an experienced manager but struggled at Liverpool. Photo - Getty images
Those who expected the FA's kingmakers to bide their time and move through the motions before inevitably appointing the popular name and flavour of the month will have been taken by surprise. This is the "safe hands" choice rather than the populist one.
Behind the scenes, the FA has always appeared relaxed and confident about fulfilling the timeframe of making an appointment towards the back end of the Premier League season, allowing the new man to arrive in the final stages of planning for Poland and Ukraine.
Now, barring any late snags in the further negotiations between Bernstein and Hodgson on Monday, it is the experienced 64-year-old who will make the next move in a nomadic career by taking charge of England.
Hodgson's likely appointment will disappoint Redknapp's many admirers, who felt he had the personality, approach and man-management skills to conclude his own managerial career at national level.
And yet as Spurs failed to receive an approach and the FA's publicly-stated deadline approached, Hodgson emerged as their favoured choice and the pieces slotted neatly into place on Sunday night.
Hodgson will fit much of the criteria set out by the Football Association as they pieced together their identikit successor to Capello.
He is experienced, has a background in international management with Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and Finland and has a career at club level that has taken him around Scandinavia through Inter Milan to Blackburn Rovers, Fulham and most notably - and most miserably - Liverpool before arriving at The Hawthorns.
He will also embrace the FA's national football centre at St. George's Park in Burton that is seen as central to its future planning. Redknapp may have been regarded as someone who wanted to make the senior team his sole focus.
And, perhaps not insignificantly, Hodgson will not come accompanied by a large compensation bill as he is out of contract at The Hawthorns on 30 June. The FA would have had to enter talks with one of the toughest negotiators around in Spurs chairman Daniel Levy had they pursued Redknapp.
Hodgson still regards himself as a coach rather than a manager but it remains to be seen whether his slavish attention to detail, repetitions, drills and pattern of play are met with more approval and success than they were during his ill-fated spell at Anfield, where his charges of course included key England figure Steven Gerrard.
The news of the FA's approach to Hodgson was not greeted with unanimous approval but his supporters, and there are plenty, will point to his work with Fulham as their benchmark. He rescued them from relegation before taking them to the Europa League Final in 2010, where they lost to Atletico Madrid.
He is a sound tactician, urbane, multi-lingual and behind the "Uncle Roy" image lies an ego and self-confidence that will not allow him a shred of doubt about his suitability for England. For the FA, Hodgson will represent a polished and respected front man while at the same time someone who is still willing to get his hands dirty on the training pitch and have input into shaping St. George's Park.
Redknapp's good relationship with the media was regarded as a factor in his favour when the succession to Capello was being discussed. Hodgson is also approachable and has media supporters who will be more than happy to back his claims against those who feel the FA has played the safety card.
There is, however, an element of high risk too. The doubters were out in numbers as soon as the FA's choice was revealed and they were understandably pointing to Hodgson's failure in arguably the biggest, most-pressurised, job he ever had when he succeeded Rafael Benitez at Liverpool in 2010.
Hodgson was, in some respects, a victim of circumstances. A low-key figure who came in below the radar of the expectations of Liverpool fans, he was not helped by being chosen ahead of Anfield icon Kenny Dalglish - who made his desire to take the job clear.
Liverpool were also going through a period of uncertainty and ownership change, with John W. Henry eventually taking over from fellow Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
What cannot be disguised, however, was how quickly Hodgson found himself out of his depth at Liverpool, struggling with the constant pressures and daily scrutiny of an unwieldy - and at times dysfunctional - footballing beast.
It was a surprise to see a man of such experiences seemingly unable to grasp the meaning of the giant club to their supporters. It is this that those who worry about Hodgson's choice will point towards.
These are the sort of pressures, and more besides, that he will face with England. Hodgson has renewed his reputation with his work at West Brom - but the pressure for success there is almost on a different planet to the hopes for England. A glance at his career suggests Hodgson's best work is done away from the spotlight that will be so relentless and unforgiving with England.
Hodgson seemed a man shocked by the intensity of the Liverpool job. In that respect it may be the ideal preparation for what awaits him when he walks into Wembley.
He may even regard the brutal Liverpool experience as a lesson learned late in his career and one that will prove invaluable in his new role. There will not be a honeymoon period here, though, as a fast start is needed at the Euros.
Hodgson regarded Liverpool as the pinnacle of his career - now he has climbed even higher as he prepared to ascend to the England job. The FA must hope the safe choice proves the successful one.