Has Roy Hodgson escaped the wrath of England fans?
- Credit: PA
Listening to England press conferences, it has been easy to pick holes in almost anything that Roy Hodgson or the chosen media friendly player of the day have had to say.
But while it's the norm – once they utter a word it is easy to pick it apart – it is churlish stuff. Have a look at the comments section below stories on whatever media website you care to choose – they are full of opinions of varying levels of integrity. When something like England's failure in Brazil happens, it is the cue for the critics to have their say.
England players are considered fair game, in much the same way as the people who voice their opinions. It's all great fun until it gets nasty, which it often does, but one thing that has been noticeable about this World Cup, this latest England failure, is the relative lack of venom directed towards the miscreants.
It may just be me, but it appears to have prompted a sympathetic response from supporters.
Hodgson hasn't been subjected to the Turnip-style battering that befell poor old Graham Taylor, nor has he had the sort of abuse that Steve 'Wally with a Brolley' McClaren received. Maybe the England PR machine has just protected him from any unfortunate scenarios that might have lit the blue touch paper on a newspaper page designer's desk. All it needs is the smallest opportunity and someone could have Roy by the jugular – all McClaren did was try and keep himself dry in a downpour, after all...The lack of aggressive reaction may simply be down to the fact that, at long last, we, as a nation, have realised that England don't have a very good football team. Even the players don't appear to have uttered the same old 'we have some world class players in our team' lines.
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In my book, if you are world class it means you are good enough to get into a World XI. England haven't had a player like that in years – perhaps not since the scandalously misused Paul Scholes.
Maybe Hodgson and Co deflected some of the anger by having the good sense to play Raheem Sterling. And only Raheem Sterling. Having been urged from all corners to give youth its chance, he did. But only minimally.
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Sterling's appearances masked the fact that it was actually pretty much the same old, same old England – that is, established players rather than fresh, exciting, young blood eager to burst out of its shell. Well that was my plan anyway. Adam Lallana (not young, but new nonetheless), Rickie Lambert (ditto) and Ross Barkley, to me, had the right combination of hunger and ability to be dangerous.
Somehow, though, Hodgson has got away with it – he didn't put his faith entirely in youth, he put it in Sterling.
The Liverpool player started both games; Barkley played a total of 55 minutes; Lallana had 29 and Lambert 3. Luke Shaw, the highly-rated left back, didn't play at all.
It wasn't exactly a great show of faith in the new generation, but you'd hope that Hodgson will give them their chance tonight in the dead rubber, for England at least, against Costa Rica. If nothing else it will give them experience of the biggest stage of all - and the Euros are only two years away.
For what it's worth, here's my team: Forster; Milner (anyone but Glen Johnson), Jones, Jagielka, Shaw; Milner, Barkley, Lallana; Welbeck, Lambert, Sterling.