The arrival of a new manager should bring fear and anxiety to players – but for all the right reasons. Out with the old and in with the new, this is the time for players to impress the new manager.
This, though, was not the case in the wake of Roy Hodgson’s unveiling as England manager on Tuesday – and it’s safe to say its virtually the other way around. Instead of pressure being put on England’s current internationals, the pressure was aimed elsewhere – more accurately at the feet of Hodgson. The impression felt by many is that Hodgson is the one who must prove his worth to the players he will choose for selection for Euro 2012. This should not be the case.
Hodgson has the power. He holds all the cards and control over the situation and it will be his decision come the end of the season in respect to which names he feels will work best under his provision and ideals. There might be some shock inclusions as well as there might be some shock exclusions but its Hodgson’s right to shape the squad how he seems fit.
There was a strong belief that if Harry Redknapp was to become England’s next manager, he would have brought back the more friendly relationship between player and coach. This, ironically, is what most managers try to avoid. Further, it was also believed that Redknapp would have had a strong attachment to the likes of Frank Lampard, who was ousted as one of the men England should leave out in it’s rebuilding of the national side. So after England’s hugely disappointing show in South Africa in 2010 – which the nation blamed on senior players – it would be hypocritical of fans to back Redknapp and those players who have constantly failed in the past.
England’s current internationals, who believe to be worthy of inclusion for Euro 2012, and featured regularly under Fabio Capello, should not rest on their laurels and should expect a fight to keep hold of their place. As has already been mentioned, a new manager brings with it new ideas and, most importantly, different opinions. Personal preference in terms of formations, shape and tactics dictate team selection also.
Hodgson has a mixed reputation in his time as manager in terms of his tactics and style of play. The reason why there was so much negativity surrounding his appointment was because of the way he sets his teams out – supposedly defensively. There were jokes made in the press about his players in training at previous clubs lining up in two banks of four tied to a rope to represent stability and sound positioning.
In an interview with the Independent in 2010, Fulham’s Simon Davies provided an insight into Hodgson’s methods. ‘I don’t want to give any secrets away, but he gets the 11 that he wants on a match day and he drills everything in that he wants. It’s certain drills defensive, certain drills attacking, and we work very hard at it. There are no diagrams. It’s all on the pitch with the ball, nothing unopposed.’ Players, like his former Blackburn and Switzerland defender, Stefan Henchoz, complain that these drills can be ‘at little bit boring’ but, as Hodgson’s managerial record shows, he gets results.
Well, maybe not at Liverpool but yet again, high maintenance players unwilling and unable to adapt to his methods was always going to be tough work. But in Hodgson’s first season at Fulham he led them to 7th place earning a spot in next season’s then newly established Europa League – which they reached the final of. Fulham also conceded a mere 34 goals, which is a defensive record more accustomed to a title winning side. But it had to be. Fulham scored just 39 goals in 38 matches, which show why some are fearful over his defensive minded sides. But you can only work with what you have got and there is no shame in applying the most realistic, suitable style for a team with limited attacking options.
So remarks made that Hodgson can only get the best out of average players is highly relevant here. After all, are England’s current lot really world class? In the press this week, the current England side was labelled as the ‘worst yet’ which is incredibly harsh due to the fact that we are witnessing the best group of youngsters stepping up into the England fold for some time. And with the growing feeling that England’s more senior internationals are simply unmanageable, surely it would be best for Hodgson to take a youthful side, hungry for success.
This should not rule out untested experience players, though. Scott Parker, who has bided his time and waited for the likes of Lampard to decline has emerged as one of England’s key players in the last year – also captaining the side against Holland. Michael Carrick too, who has often been overlooked by previous managers because of the apparent superiority of Gerrard and Lampard in the central midfield should now have a great chance of starting at Euro 2012. Leighton Baines might also challenge Ashley Cole for his left back spot but Cole is still England’s standout performer.
There are also chances for England’s uncapped and few capped players who have enjoyed a successful season in the top flight this season. Kyle Walker with just two international appearances is likely to be England’s first choice right back to the annoyance of Michah Richards who must surely be feeling that his time will never come. Grant Holt of Norwich who is second to only Wayne Rooney in terms of English goalscorers in the Premier League would surely feel begrudged for at least inclusion in to the preliminary squad.
The European Championships also will be for many their first experience at this level: Joe Hart, Gary Cahill, Parker, Danny Welbeck all of which are new to this standard – that’s if they’re picked obviously.
It’s safe to say that Hodgson has options whereas other years the 23-man squad has virtually picked itself. So the likes of Gerrard, whose form has been largely disappointing for Liverpool this season, should feel nervous ahead of Hodgson’s announcement next week. The tension between Rio Ferdinand and Terry could mean that one might miss out also. Hodgson will know, however, the importance of having some experience at these tournaments and will look to keep the best of England’s troubled bunch. As has already been mentioned, this is their last chance to shine and will want to wipe away their torrid performances for England at major tournaments. England’s senior internationals, though, seem to be keener than ever which can only be a positive for Hodgson.
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