Humble Hodgson makes modest start as mood music changes


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The Independent Online

Gary Neville posts a song of the day to his social network followers each morning, and on Saturday it was Paul Weller's "Brand New Start". It is beginning to feel as if this is just such a thing for England, even though it felt faintly Engelbert Humperdinck to be taking a very flat 4-4-2 into Europe on Saturday night.

The most welcome new beginning is that Roy Hodgson seems to have taken the swagger out of England. They have been forever heading out across the world as if they owned it. The sight of Hodgson asking each of his team to acknowledge England's supporters on Saturday in Oslo felt very different.

The worry is that the simple things which we saw in his team on Saturday will bring a vulnerability when the big, bad world starts crowding in on 11 June.

Hodgson's men looked flat at times against Norway. No one ran between the lines. Scott Parker seemed frustrated by the absence of someone willing to break the confines of the grid and give him a passing option.

There was only one overlap from a full-back to speak of all night – by Leighton Baines – and a solitary whipped cross from Stewart Downing. As a target man, Andy Carroll will need better than this against France.

Hodgson acknowledged there was a need for more lateral thinking. "We have to get in between the lines a little bit better," he said.

Neville's involvement is critical, though the new coach has himself argued ardently from his television studio seat that 4-4-2 is an outdated system. But after the empty promises of what has gone before with England, there has been a rich substance to the discussions with Hodgson in Norway.

"I am looking beyond the Euros," he said. "The fact is I signed a contract to do this job over the coming years.

"I also want to do well in the Euros with the team and I will try to get the team as well organised and well prepared as I can. But I am not prepared to make the Euros the be-all and end-all in terms of the way I want to, hopefully, make a mark on the team and, hopefully, play in the future."

No grand promises, then. Even the claim that "we can win it" had to be dragged out of him. This is a very different England.