Another World Cup, another disappointing exit for England, and, unsurprisingly, many in the media are calling for what inevitably happens after a failed campaign to happen again; the ceremonial sacking of the England manager who oversaw it.
What many journalists do not seem to realise, or if they do they act out of the greatest hypocrisy, is that this continual rotation of managers every tournament cycle is just as damaging to England’s hopes as it is in club management.
The media often stands up and defends club managers who are sacked before they have the chance to make their mark on the team, and yet these same people are quick to bay for the blood of an experienced manager who, truth be told, is doing well in a difficult job.
There has been a tangible progression since Roy Hodgson took charge just before the European championships in 2012. Yes, England progressed further in those championships but this was a World Cup in which they were drawn in arguably the most difficult group, and exited along with an Italian side that have previously shown themselves capable of beating the very best in the world.
Talk of statistics and low points totals is useless after facing such a daunting task as the England team faced this time; a trio of Costa Rica, Uruguay and Italy is considerably more daunting than the U.S.A, Slovenia and Algeria that they faced in 2010. They must be judged on performances not results, and they, Costa Rica aside, showed considerable promise.
Against Italy and Uruguay England repeatedly looked the better side, something that cannot be said of the England team that went out to Italy in 2012 after a scrappy draw. Against Costa Rica, they did seem to lack a certain tactical acumen, but that is to be expected after nine changes were made to the previous starting eleven. If nine changes were made to a club side, would anybody expect the team to be at the same level as the team that has experience playing together?
There has been talk of England losing their identity as ‘hard to beat’ and that this is a negative statement. This seems to be a form of nostalgia for a success that never existed; England never had any real success when they took this approach. It is one thing to be hard to beat, but at international level somebody is always going to score against you with a piece of brilliance with which even the best defenders could not cope.
More attacking threat
Under Hodgson, England look much more of threat going forward, and look like they have the ability to get back into a game in which they fall behind. What England are experiencing is an evolutionary transition towards a more attacking side, rather than the stagnation of soaking up pressure and attempting to poach a goal on the counter. It is a move towards how the very best club teams play, and that is not something for which Hodgson should be criticised for trying to implement.
International teams take time to put together, particularly teams in transition such as England, and Hodgson is an experienced head coach who knows exactly what he is doing. He picked a starting eleven against Italy and Uruguay that most England fans would have picked, and was rewarded with energetic performances in two games that they could have easily won.
What is most important, however, is that Hodgson has introduced youth to an England set up that was aging and behind the times. For the first time in years they looked fresh and motivated, and if Hodgson is allowed time and can keep this young squad playing together regularly, there is undoubted potential for exponential improvement among the group.
Stick with Roy
Now is the time to be patient with Hodgson, to allow him to build from the ground up. He has already done away with the old style of England play that was epitomised by Fabio Capello; being hard to break down but lacking ideas going forward, a strategy that is famously yet to work at any major tournament. Now he is trying to build for the future and yet, some are calling for him to go. This seems bizarre. One cannot reasonably expect even club managers, who spend almost every day with their players, to turn their team’s fortunes around in just two years.
How can it then be reasonable to expect anything of the sort from an international manager to help a team evolve in such a short time given the limited contact he has with the players? Now is the time to buck the trend of knee jerk international sackings, to stick with a manager who has begun to build an exciting team during his time in charge. Give Hodgson time, and he may just build something special.
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