Humble Roy Hodgson makes modest start for England in Norway

Norway 0 England 1: Refreshing lack of hype marks new managerial reign but rigid 4-4-2 system looks outdated

The Ullevaal Stadion

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. Liverpool fans will smirk at that kind of observation but let's welcome it.

England have been forever heading out across the world as if they owned it. When Fabio Capello's squad descended on Rustenburg, South Africa, the vast images of them which filled the walls of the media facility built up each player as a colossus. It was all hubris. The sight of Hodgson asking each of his team to acknowledge England's supporters late on Saturday night in Oslo felt very different.

"Can I drink this with the cameras around?" the manager inquired at his press conference a little later, when he arrived clutching a Coca-Cola bottle. "I have to ask these questions. I could do what I wanted at West Brom." The simplest things sometimes speak of humility.

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

Hodgson's serried columns of men looked flat and flaccid 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. Time and again, the Tottenham player was forced to swivel round and propel the ball back.

There was only one overlap from a full-back to speak of all night – that honour belonged to Leighton Baines – and a solitary whipped cross from Stewart Downing, a player still looking for the old-fashioned art of the winger which he put down somewhere months ago and forgot to pick up again.

As a target man, Andy Carroll will need better than this against France. He is looking for players to get beyond him and in behind defences, creating space for him.

Gary Lineker only required 140 characters to tell it. "Stuck in 3 lines with no depth. Fine against inferior opposition but..." And: "Not enough passing options. All straight lines."

Hodgson acknowledged there was a need for more lateral thinking. "We have to get in between the lines a little bit better," he said. "We have to be more positive when we get a chance to play the ball in between those lines, when we break that midfield line when the other team are pressing. That's a work in progress."

But Saturday actually shone a light on the ascetic form this summer will probably see in England's football. There will be all the usual pre-match fervour and little to set the pulses racing.

There are perils in that for Hodgson. He lacks the line of credit which a more populist appointee would command and he conceded that winning on Saturday was more important to him than he had been prepared to admit beforehand.

"Of course it's about winning," he said. "You can't be a good coach if you have a losing team. That's the bottom line. It's an obvious truism. You can get an unfortunate couple of goals you don't deserve, you end up losing 2-1, and make a big, big fuss about the result."

Neither do we know how his players will take to this journey back to the rudiments of a team shape when the novelty of a new manager has worn off. He failed at Liverpool because some of the star names wanted something more exciting than endless drills.

Neville's involvement is critical, as the bridge between Hodgson and the team, though the new coach has himself argued ardently from his television studio seat in the past two months that 4-4-2 is an outdated system now. 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.

Two years ago, before England's last tournament, we were fixed on Capello's contract exit clause. Now here was the new manager revealing that he views the European Championship as a staging post – with his real focus being on the World Cup beyond.

"I am looking beyond the Euros," he said. "The fact is I signed a contract to do this job over the coming years, so I have my sights firmly fixed on the future.

"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." Amid the clamour for instant success, this was a brave contention.

With the Chelsea contingent and Wayne Rooney only joining the ranks tomorrow, you feel Hodgson has not had to handle the full, complex, England dynamic just yet. But his grasp of what his players can do has been impressive, in such a short time – especially the discovery of the forward partnership of Carroll and Ashley Young in Rooney's absence, which delivered Saturday's goal.

He has a very clear idea of Rooney as his future No 10. His hope is that he can bring out the world-class in other England players – Young, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Phil Jones – if he only gets the time. Then England can marry pragmatism and pizzazz.

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.

"Build some heaven on the ground," Weller sings. "Not something distant and unfound, but something real to me."

A brand new start, indeed.

Match facts

Norway: JARSTEIN, HOGLI, DEMIDOV, HANGELAND, RIISE, TETTEY, ELYOUNOUSSI, HENRIKSEN, PEDERSEN, BRAATEN, ABDELLAOUI

England: GREEN, BAINES, LESCOTT, JAGIELKA, JONES, DOWNING, PARKER, GERRARD, MILNER, YOUNG, CARROLL

Scorer: Young (9).

Substitutes: Norway Ruud (Hogli, 40), Grindheim (Pedersen, 62), Huseklepp (Braaten, 74), Berisha (Henriksen, 84), Jenssen (Tettey, 90). England Barry (Gerrard, h-t), Walcott (Parker, 56), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Young, 72), Henderson (Barry, 73), A Johnson (Downing, 85), Kelly (Jones, 88).

Booked None.Man of match Young. Match rating 6/10.

Possession: Norway 52% England 48%.

Attempts on target: Norway 9 England 5.

Referee M Weiner (Ger). Attendance 21,496.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone