December 13 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Roy Hodgson is adamant that if England keeping peppering the centre of international football’s dartboard, they will eventually hit the bullseye of a major tournament win.
Whilst the Football Association drew an impressive response for its invitation to the launch of its 150th anniversary celebrations, it was impossible to stray too far from the area of its work on which it is judged over all others.
For all the community work, vast investment in the grassroots game and development of both Wembley Stadium and St George’s Park, it is the England team with which the FA is synonymous.
So, in addition to the backslapping of a century and a half that has shaped the entire game, 2013 will also deliver a judgement on Hodgson’s management.
By the end, he will either be preparing to launch a World Cup assault, or licking his wounds and, quite probably, counting the cash from his pay-off having failed to secure a place at Brazil 2014.
No-one has suffered that ignominy since Graham Taylor’s inability to book a trip to USA ‘94.
Even then there is no guarantee of success, with four quarter-finals and a semi the best the Three Lions have achieved since Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy and 11 England heroes went dancing round Wembley in 1966.
The European Championships have been no more productive, with Hodgson’s own team also falling at the last-eight stage to Italy last summer.
Yet he is convinced such disappointments should eventually gain their reward.
“There’s always hope,” he said. “Hope springs eternal.
“What you have to do to win tournaments is make sure you are regularly amongst the ones who have a possibility of winning.
“Compare it to someone who is an amateur dart player.
“The more darts he throws in and around the centre, one day he will get it in the bullseye.
“If he’s spreading them around the board his chances will be less.
“Of course, the first thing we have to do is qualify. Then it will be important to give a very good account of ourselves, because once you are there you have a chance of winning it.”
The magic formula proved elusive for some of the men Hodgson sat alongside in the Connaught Rooms today.
Between them, Fabio Capello, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Terry Venables presided over five major tournament campaigns and got no nearer a final than the penalty shoot-out misery to Germany at Euro ‘96.
Yet Hodgson believes, together with two more former England bosses, Kevin Keegan and Glenn Hoddle - who were not present - they could form a brains trust that would be very useful.
“If ever that was a possibility I would love it,” he said.
“Get the group of us together in a room to compare notes and ideas and hear about their experiences.
“It won’t happen because they’re all in jobs or doing different things, so you meet on occasions like this where you are just limited to the odd word.”
Capello provided more than an odd word for Hodgson, chatting to him for much of the formal 75-minute ceremony.
In English, too, which was a surprise given Hodgson counts fluent Italian amongst his many languages and Capello never gave the impression of conquering his adopted tongue during his four years in the job.
Both share a common history, though, as what Hodgson prefers to think of as custodians of the national side.
“Custodian has got to be the word people should bear in mind all the time,” he said.
“We can quite easily fall into the hype being elevated into positions by the mass media because you have won a few games and think you have something special to offer.
“But it’s a custodial job.
“There have been lots of England managers before me and will be lots after me. It’s very important you are aware you are a cog in the wheel.”
A studious man, not given to hyperbole or soundbites, Hodgson recoils at the thought the FA’s 150 years should bring extra responsibility, believing the responsibility is great no matter what landmark is being celebrated.
Neither does he want to agree the England job is like no other, citing Brazil, Germany and Spain as just three countries who might take issue with such bold talk.
But he is settling into the role, and understanding the limitations he must place on himself, which include not stopping to sign “350” demands for autographs when he arrived at Old Trafford on Sunday for Manchester United’s win over Liverpool.
“I am very proud to have got this and, if I hadn’t realised the immensity of the honour, it was brought home by today’s launch,” he said.
“I am aware what a massive responsibility it is because the nation wants me to succeed.”