Phil Neville set for England recall – as Euro 2012 coach
Hodgson thinks Everton veteran can be an ideal bridge between players and staff this summer
It was only yesterday that Phil Neville was jousting with Wayne Rooney on Twitter, warning his former Manchester United and England team-mate that completing his coaching badges was not as straightforward as he might imagine. For Neville, however, there is the possibility of a coaching education this summer that no course could replicate.
Neville, 35, and approaching the end of his seventh season at Everton, is the first choice of the Football Association and Roy Hodgson to join the England backroom staff for the European Championship next month. There have been a few names batted about at Wembley, including Alan Shearer, Jamie Carragher and even Phil's older brother Gary, but Neville Jnr is the one who is expected to be approached this week.
These are crucial days for Hodgson as he tries to piece together a staff, not to mention a squad, while completing his duties at West Bromwich Albion and trying to keep one eye on the preparations that lie ahead in the weeks to come. Phil Neville, he hopes, will give his backroom staff a youthful element and, as a former international who has played alongside many of the current older players, provide the crucial bridge from the staff to the team.
The FA head of elite development, Gareth Southgate, remains a name in the frame for the job because he would still be available in the long-term beyond the European Championship. Should it be Neville, it is anticipated that he would be with England for Euro 2012 only, and that once the World Cup 2014 qualification begins in the autumn Hodgson will appoint a permanent coach to his staff.
Neville won a very respectable 59 caps with England, from his debut as a 19-year-old in 1996 to his last appearance against Estonia under Steve McClaren in October 2007 as injuries took hold in the Euro 2008 qualification campaign. He was unlucky with the 1998 and 2002 World Cup finals, missing out on the squad despite having played in the qualification campaigns for both, but featured at the 2000 and 2004 European Championships.
As far as his coaching badges go, Neville has completed his B licence and is understood to be studying for his A licence this summer. Hodgson will take on the vast majority of the coaching responsibilities with England, as is his way, while Neville, if he goes, will be there in a much more junior capacity.
Hodgson has appointed Ray Lewington as his temporary assistant, having cut Stuart Pearce from the senior team backroom staff despite the former England defender having been very the much the FA's golden boy in recent years. Mike Kelly is another long-term friend and confidant of Hodgson but at 69 it is felt that the former England goalkeeper coach may be a little too senior for another tournament.
As for the squad itself, it could hardly be said that it picks itself. There is a major decision to be made on whether Hodgson takes John Terry or Rio Ferdinand, with Terry's court case for alleged racial abuse of Ferdinand's brother Anton looming over both of them. The suggestion is that it could be Terry who is left behind, which would overshadow all other decisions at the squad announcement a week today.
Otherwise the indications are that Hodgson will favour experience. He is prepared to make sweeping changes after Euro 2012 but would prefer to do so having had the benefit of some time in the job first. That would suggest that the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Gareth Barry are all set to retain their places for this tournament.
The fitness of Theo Walcott remains a prime consideration for Hodgson. So too that of Darren Bent, the Aston Villa striker, who has not played since 25 February. His manager Alex McLeish has suggested that Bent could be fit in time to play this summer but that would represent a major risk, especially given Rooney's suspension for the first two games of the tournament.
In terms of his wide players, Hodgson has to perm around four from Walcott, James Milner, Ashley Young, Aaron Lennon, Stewart Downing, Adam Johnson and the uncapped Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The likes of the Arsenal youngster can expect an opportunity under Hodgson, but this summer may be too soon unless injuries to others open the way for them.
Equally, with the captaincy, it is expected that Hodgson will name an individual for Euro 2012 and then review the situation once the 2014 World Cup qualification campaign begins against Moldova away in September.
One advantage Hodgson does have is that he knows Ben Foster better than most managers and is best-placed to persuade the Birmingham City goalkeeper, who has been on loan at West Bromwich this season, to end his international sabbatical and return to the squad this summer. Foster announced his decision to withdraw himself from selection one year ago and has not budged since but represents the best alternative to Joe Hart, should the No 1 choice get injured.
The FA announced yesterday that it would not be going ahead with its pre-tournament camp at the Marbella Paradise of Football that was put in place by Fabio Capello before his departure. That has been abandoned in favour of another five-star resort between Marbella and Malaga, where the England team will stay the week after next.
It is a small change but reveals that the Euro 2012 itinerary with which Hodgson left Wembley 10 days ago has been well-scrutinised, and that the new England manager is not afraid to make changes. He has already jettisoned Pearce but it remains to be seen just how much further he might go in changing the squad– and the set-up – he inherited from Capello.
Ray Lewington (coach)
Popular former Chelsea and Fulham midfielder, 55, who also worked as assistant to Hodgson at Craven Cottage for three years and leaves Martin Jol's team to take up the role.
Ray Clemence (goalkeeping coach)
Former Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur keeper who won 61 caps. Involved with England side since 1996 as goalkeeping coach and has also worked on the youth develop-ment side.
Gary Lewin (head physiotherapist)
Spent 28 years at Arsenal, while working as physio with England since 1996. Left the Premier League club after being promoted to current national role in 2008.
Veteran Everton and former Manchester United defender with 59 caps looks set to be appointed. Holds Uefa B licence and helped coach the Under-21 side in February in the absence of Stuart Pearce.
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