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Roy Hodgson is a professional and will give appropriate care to West Brom in the next 11 days, but no doubt he will give every spare waking moment and a decent proportion of his dreams to England now. On Sunday he will come up against one of his nightmares.
Before Hodgson can give all his days and all his nights to the new job he must finish his spell as West Brom manager at The Hawthorns on May 13 against Arsenal, when he will surely receive acclaim for leaving Albion as the West Midlands' top team. First, this Sunday he will take the Baggies to Bolton, where they will come up against a player unlikely to make it to Ukraine and Poland but capped for the first time by Fabio Capello - and who until the past few days could be argued to have cost Hodgson his chance of ever managing England.
Kevin Davies, who pretty early into his decade at Bolton became synonymous with their playing style, appeared for England as a substitute in the goalless draw against Montenegro that stalled Fabio Capello's qualifying campaign in October 2010. He was aged 33 and 200 days, his country's oldest debutant since 1950. It came as a surprise to no-one that Davies was booked; his reputation was well known and deserved. But before Sam Allardyce saw something he liked, Davies was a promising young striker who was thought worth a sizeable punt by a manager in his first big job in England.
Thirteen-and-a-half years before that game at the new Wembley, Davies was a decent David Elleray decision away from a place at the old ground. The striker was a key part of Chesterfield's improbable run to the FA Cup semi-finals, which should surely have ended as the first team from the third tier to reach the final. The Spireites were 2-1 up at Old Trafford against the ten men of Middlesbrough when Jonathan Howard's shot against the bar clearly came down well over the line; Elleray did not think so and, despite eventually forcing a replay, Chesterfield lost that 3-0 (Boro going on to be beaten by Chelsea, conceding inside a minute to another man in the news, Roberto Di Matteo).
Davies, who turned 20 a fortnight before the semi, was not prolific but he had scored a hat-trick in a 3-2 win at Bolton in the fourth round. After 22 goals in 129 games he was signed by Graeme Souness for Southampton shortly after the end of the season for £750,000. Before he could play a game for his new manager the Scot resigned, but under Dave Jones the young striker made an immediate adjustment to rising two divisions. With nine goals in 20 starts and five appearances off the bench he impressed greatly. His season was curtailed by injury as he played only three times after January 19, but on that day he scored the only goal in a Premiership home victory against Manchester United.
Hodgson, meanwhile, was shining at Blackburn, arresting a decline that had set in after the 1995 title win and the sale of Alan Shearer in the summer of 1996. Rovers finished 13th in 1997 after a relegation scare, but Hodgson came in and led them to sixth despite a post-Christmas slump.
The manager set about strengthening his squad. Shearer had been signed by Kenny Dalglish from Southampton in 1992, for what at the time was an eye-watering £3.6m; Hodgson decided that what Blackburn needed was another record buy from The Dell. He paid £7.5m for the 21-year-old Davies.
This was the summer of 1998. Glenn Hoddle had led England to the World Cup ahead of Italy and then reached the last 16, where David Beckham rightly took most of the blame for the exit. Hoddle, though, then threw away the goodwill with a spectacularly misjudged World Cup diary, answering for profit many questions he had dismissed as intrusive. Even the paper serialising the book felt the need to turn against him after a couple of instalments and when England lost their opening Euro 2000 qualifier 2-1 to Sweden, with Paul Ince sent off, the knives were out.
A report on Hoddle a few days after that defeat said: 'Hills cut the odds about him leaving by the end of the season from 7-2 to 6-4. The European Championship defeat in Sweden and the managerial vacancy at Hoddle's former club Tottenham forced Hills into action.
'And they also brought out their scissors to slash the price about Roy Hodgson becoming Hoddle's successor. The Blackburn boss was yesterday cut from 6-4 to 1-2 to take the hot seat. Hills saw as significant the fact Hodgson, the former Swiss manager, was in Stockholm as a TV summariser on Saturday.'
The betting in full on 'the next permanent England manager' read: 1-2 Roy Hodgson, 9-4 Bryan Robson, 8 David Platt, 14 Kevin Keegan, Terry Venables, 20 Gerry Francis, Howard Wilkinson, 25 others. To be odds-on when no vacancy existed was remarkable.
Blackburn's season had not started too badly, but Davies was struggling to fit in, unfortunately. When results took a turn for the worse, the wisdom of spending so much money on Davies was questioned. When results took a turn for the much worse, the striker was the poster boy for Hodgson's failures.
Hoddle would eventually leave England in a confected row over religious beliefs in the new year. But Hodgson was gone in mid-November, following a defeat to Davies's former club Southampton. The 'striker' finally scored his one goal for Rovers against Charlton a couple of weeks later, but 1998-99 proved a relegation season for Blackburn and the Addicks alike.
Allardyce would later successfully build a team around Davies's play, and Hodgson would rebuild his career - going abroad, where he had made his name. In 1999, though, the Davies misjudgment led to his being available but a rank outsider when Hoddle left England, to be replaced by 'people's choice' Kevin Keegan. Hodgson was a candidate again when Keegan departed, but for a long, long time it looked as if 1998-99 had been his one big chance.
Hodgson will not hold against Davies what happened at Blackburn. But I do wonder whether they will exchange a word or two at Bolton on Sunday.