Roy Hodgson launched his most outspoken defence yet of his young England team after their narrow win over Norway on Wednesday, accusing his critics of talking “b*******” and demanding his players be judged on performances and not burdened with “the baggage of a bad World Cup”.
The England manager was in a combative mood following the 1-0 win over Norway at Wembley, his anger directed at those who felt his team’s performance had exemplified many of the bad old aspects of the national team despite an average age of 24 and not a single player of 30 or over. He was particularly aggrieved at the assertion they only had two shots on target throughout the game.
Hodgson’s frustrations centred upon the change of mood from what he described as the pre-World Cup “euphoria” to the downbeat attitude on Wednesday which accompanied the lowest attendance at an England international since the new Wembley was opened. He said that the pre-World Cup win over Peru on 30 May, England’s previous victory, had been against a much weaker opponent than Norway.
In his off-camera newspaper briefing, Hodgson said: “We are getting 83,000 people to see us play Peru, who, with respect, were nowhere near as difficult as an opponent as Norway. And now we have 40,000 to see us play against a much more difficult opponent. I can’t put that right because I can’t turn the clock back, but what I can do is analyse what I have seen and judge that through my eyes. I’m not going to judge [on the basis] that someone is telling me, ‘Well, you only had two shots at goal’. For me, that is absolute fucking bollocks. I’m sorry.”
Asked whether he felt his team was not getting the credit they deserved Hodgson said that he simply wished to be judged game by game. “We can’t get rid of the baggage, we can’t change the fact that we have had a bad World Cup. We can’t play those games against Italy and Uruguay again.
“But I think you will have to give me the entitlement at least. If we had have played badly, if a lot of players had had really poor performances, if the quality of our passing, our movement, was nothing like I wanted to see; if our defending wasn’t as compact, aggressive and organised as it was for large periods of games, I would be the first to say so. But I am not going to say it’s not that just because we had a bad World Cup. It’s as simple as that.”
He was also angry that his young players were being judged too early in their development as internationals, pointing out that the relative inexperience of his side meant that they needed time to develop. Aside from his two most capped starters on Wednesday, Wayne Rooney and Joe Hart, the remaining nine had just 136 caps between them before the game with the next most experienced player Gary Cahill, who is now on 28.
Hodgson said: “I will continue to say, so long as they continue to give performances like [Norway]: some of these players are top, top players in the making. But they are players in the making. You can’t play five games for England, be a regular in the Liverpool team for only six or seven months and be David Beckham.
“You can’t come in like Phil Jones after all the injuries and, at the moment, nail down a place in the central defence of Manchester United and become John Terry. You can’t be Jack Wilshere, who has lost all that football through injury, and then all of a sudden become Bryan Robson.
“Let’s be fair about these things. That is all I am asking. Also, allow me to be excited by what they can do. Allow me also to say, that when they play well, ‘I think they did well’, even though there might be some cynicism out there.”
The part-time England and Liverpool psychiatrist Steve Peters will speak to the squad on Friday and Saturday but will not travel to Switzerland with the squad for Monday’s European Championship qualifier.Reuse content