With Roy Hodgson having been confirmed as England manager for the next four years the speculation now moves to how he will deal with the multitude of pressing issues that the current squad faces.
Here are just five to be going on with.
The Captain Issue- in an ideal (or indeed sensible) world, who takes on the role of England captain wouldn’t really matter but for the English, and for the English press in particular, it carries the same level of import as a US President selecting a member of the Supreme Court.
Hodgson could defuse weeks of discussion by simply announcing that Joe Hart will be his captain.
Hart is a top class player who is certain to be picked and who carries none of the baggage that weighs down so many other members of the squad.
Replacing Rooney- Hodgson’s most immediate concern on the field will be who he plays in place of the suspended Wayne Rooney for the first two games of Euro 2012. Does he play a system that Rooney can immediately slip into, or does he compensate for the lack of his only genuinely top class striker by adapting the system?
Bobby Zamora’s chances of being on the plane have surely increased with the appointment of a manager who got the best out of him at Fulham and Hodgson may indeed decide to play the QPR forward as “Rooney Lite” until the real deal arrives.
Sturridge, Cleverley, Wilshere, Jones, Welbeck and others were all being talked about as an exciting new generation.
Whether it be down to injuries or a dip in form almost all have dropped from that high watermark to varying degrees.
Hodgson has to decide if the upcoming Euros should be the final hurrah of an aging squad (and hope that they “do a Chelsea”) or the chance to introduce a group of young players to tournament football that will pay dividends in the coming years.
The phrase “between a rock and a hard place” springs to mind for this dilemma.
Aside from the fact this detracts from the players as much as it does Hodgson he will still have to convince the elite of England that he is the right man for the job.
Maybe his introductory remarks should be “I am known for getting the best out of mediocre players and that’s why I was put in charge of you lot” because if there is anything the current crop of England players need it is the removal of the belief that they are actually in the upper echelons of world footballing talent.
Winning Over the Press- if Hodgson was in any doubt that he would be under even more scrutiny than he was at Anfield then that was surely eradicated when one of the first questions was about his views on Apartheid (he played in South Africa in the 1970’s).
A number of polls have shown that England fans prefer Hodgson to Harry Redknapp for the job but that isn’t going to carry much weight with Fleet Street’s finest.
The simple answer is that Hodgson can only win over the tabloids by winning games and it is up to his employers at the FA to not be swayed by every lurid headline after every wayward performance and demonstrate that they are genuinely interested in the long term development of the game as opposed to the bells and whistles of the here and now.
Good luck Roy!
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