I’VE rarely laughed out loud at The Onion in my many years of reading the satirical US website.
The online newspaper dispenses the kind of wry humour which raises a smile rather than summoning a guffaw.
But on occasions The Onion can hit the funny bone, such as this magnificent headline a few days after 9/11: “God angrily clarifies ‘don’t kill’ rule”.
The satirists struck the right note again seven years later when US voters elected an African-American president for the first time while the country was mired in a recession and two unwinnable wars: “Black man given nation’s worst job.”
I wonder if Roy Hodgson feels a little like this today as he prepares to take the reins as England manager.
Granted his task is not as tough as Obama’s. Whatever else Hodgson is expected to do, he won’t have to cope with a banking crisis or devise a credible exit strategy for Afghanistan.
But still, they don’t call managing England “the impossible job” for nothing.
Just look at what it’s done to the last few men to pull on the Three Lions tracksuit.
Fabio Capello left in February with the bitter taste of failure in his mouth for the first time in his long managerial career.
Sven Goran Eriksson, Glen Hoddle and Kevin Keegan left the England job because of penalty shoot-out incompetence, interview incompetence and an admission he couldn’t do the job respectively. None of these men has achieved anything of note since parting company with the FA.
Graham Taylor and Steve McClaren have had decent post-England success, though they have rebuilt their professional reputations while opposing fans mocked them as either ‘the turnip’ or ‘the wally with the brolly’.
So it is perhaps just as well for Hodgson that he is already 64 and that managing England may end up being his last job in the game.
This week the West Brom boss is being hailed as the answer to the national team’s problems.
Barring the miracle of a tournament win, Hodgson will be on his way out in a year or four, mocked by the tabloids, booed by the fans and bad-mouthed by some millionaire star in a cash-in autobiography.
Hodgson should enjoy the honeymoon over the next few weeks because the marriage will be hell.
Which is not to say that he’s the wrong man for the job. In fact, the FA appear to have shown a rare piece of good judgement by hiring the English candidate with the most credentials, rather than the one with the most mates in the press corps.
Hodgson, unlike early favourite Harry Redknapp, has taken a team to the knock-out rounds of the World Cup.
The West Brom man has coached in six countries to Redknapp’s one and has taken two teams to European finals – two more than the Tottenham boss.
Granted, Hodgson’s post-match interviews aren’t as matey as Redknapp’s but, other than that, he is clearly the best English candidate for the job.
The few remaining Harry-for-England fundamentalists point out that the West Brom boss failed in his last big job when he was kicked out after just a few months at Liverpool.
It would be nice for England fans if this mattered. The sad fact is that his work improving modest teams like Fulham and West Brom is more relevant.
Hodgson’s ability to organise and inspire a team ethos will take the national side further than Redknapp’s matey camaraderie with the big-name players.
England need a manager who can out-think his opposite number. The time has long since passed when the national team could simply ‘go out and play’ confident in the knowledge that Johnny Foreigner would be blown away.
England are a decent side, capable of qualifying for major tournaments but not good enough to excel when they get there.
The current crop of players may be as good as France or Italy, but they are a clear step below the European elite of Spain, Germany and Holland.
England simply will not beat the main contenders for the Euro 2012 crown by going toe-to-toe. They have to accept their limitations and box clever.
In this context Hodgson – a man who took Fulham past the mighty Juventus on the way to the UEFA Cup Final just two years ago – is surely England’s man.
There is a very, very small chance that he could go even further with the national team than he did with the Cottagers and actually lift a trophy.
If that doesn’t happen, Hodgson will be hounded out by a section of the country which refuses to accept that England don’t belong at the top table.
The really strange thing is that after Hodgson has been chewed up and spat out there will be no shortage of volunteers to clamber into the mouth of English delusion.