Dean Ashton calls for strong ‘character’ to replace Roy Hodgson as England manager

England manager Roy Hodgson during a press conference in Chantilly, France. England were knocked out

England manager Roy Hodgson during a press conference in Chantilly, France. England were knocked out at the round of 16 stage of the 2016 European Championships last night after losing 2-1 to Iceland. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Eliminating the fear factor surrounding tournament football must be the key focus of the next England manager.

England's Dean Ashton and Trinidad's Khaleem Hyland during the International Friendly match at the H

England's Dean Ashton and Trinidad's Khaleem Hyland during the International Friendly match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain, Trinidad in June 2008. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire - Credit: PA

That is the belief of former Norwich City striker Dean Ashton, who is still struggling to understand how Roy Hodgson's team managed to exit Euro 2016 in such disastrous fashion.

'That performance was as bad as I've ever seen from England in such a big game – and I've been watching them since 1990,' the former Three Lions front-man said of Monday's shock 2-1 defeat to Iceland.

'They were struck down by the fear of playing for England and making one mistake that you can never live down. That's the only reason I can think of why the Premier League's top scorer (Harry Kane) looked so scared, why Joe Hart looked so pumped up before the game and then makes a mistake like that. It can only be fear.'

Ashton received international call-ups during his playing days but suffered an ankle injury in England training that restricted him to just one cap and, eventually, early retirement at the age of just 26.

https://twitter.com/Dean36ashton10/status/747703386057940994

Still only 32 years old, the Norfolk-based former West Ham and Crewe star has been working as a media pundit during the tournament and caught a glimpse of the problems in the England set-up during his cruelly short international career.

'I can definitely say it wasn't a relaxed atmosphere,' Ashton recalled. 'From the coaches all the way down to the players, in terms of maybe a bit of arrogance and expecting that we should be in semi-finals and finals – when the records show we are not that good.'

Most Read

With no clear favourite for Hodgson's replacement yet to emerge, Ashton added: 'It's difficult because we need to forget about whether they are young, old, English or foreign – it doesn't matter, it's the character that matters.

'They need to have a passion for the country to win things and to know how to win things. You're not there to coach at that level, you're there to blend the group together and to play in a certain way.'

Ashton was also perplexed by the use of skipper Wayne Rooney as a midfielder during the tournament, with the Manchester United talisman taking his record-breaking goal tally to 52 goals in 115 games with his early penalty against Iceland.

'For England's leading goal-scorer in history to be picking the ball up off the centre-backs, I just cannot understand that, I cannot get my head around it,' the former Canaries striker said.

'To take off Eric Dier, who had probably been one of our best players in the tournament, and for Wayne Rooney to drop deep and play in the anchor role, I just cannot understand that.

'Would Miroslav Klose (71 goals in 137 games) have played as a holding midfield for Germany?! We would have been laughing at that.'