Roy Hodgson clears up all the questions surrounding England ahead of Euro 2012
Roy Hodgson had just 16 days from being made England manager to naming his squad. Yesterday he explained in detail his reasons for who was left out, who was included and which player had retired but not announced it
Q. Can England win the 2012 European Championship?
A. It's the time-honoured question asked of every manager before a major tournament. Yesterday it was pointed out to Roy Hodgson that, given everything else that has happened in the 17 days since his appointment, he was still yet to be asked. His answer was an intriguing insight into the mentality of the squad. "The senior players I've spoken to, who have one or two disappointments where they've had to come home and face criticism, would tell you we can win it," Hodgson said. "I'd refer you to the Danes in [the European Championships of] '92 and the Greeks in [Euro] 2004. You don't necessarily have to be the best team to win a tournament. You can get by with good team spirit, a bit of luck at the right times... we go there believing we can do a good job. We're one of the 16 teams there. I'm not a gambler, but..."
Q. Why is there no Michael Carrick, even on stand-by?
A. The Manchester United midfielder has effectively retired from international football, Hodgson revealed yesterday. The decision was made months ago, before Hodgson's appointment, although Carrick has given the new England manager an assurance that if the situation becomes dire – and Scott Parker is still a major doubt – then he would be available. Carrick's England career has never been a particularly happy one. He made his debut as a 19-year-old in 2001 but there were almost four years between his second and third caps. Having grown tired of being a squad member but rarely playing, he last featured more than two years ago against Mexico, the country he made his debut against. Hodgson said: "I wouldn't dream of putting Michael Carrick on a standby list after he's made it clear in the past he doesn't want to be involved like that. I'd have to be convinced he was better than the four I've selected, and that he'd be happy to come out of retirement."
Q. Having been so critical of Glen Johnson at Liverpool, does Hodgson still trust him?
A. "That relates to a question I answered unwisely by answering honestly. As a result, Glen was a bit upset that I hadn't protected him more than I'd done. The question, quite simply, was: 'Do you think Glen Johnson is playing for you at the moment like an England international?' "I said 'No' because he wasn't playing that well. I paid the price for that honest answer, but I don't think that's affected my relationship with Glen. I certainly hope it hasn't. He was very friendly when we played up at Liverpool recently. I'm hoping that, when he plays for England, the last thing on his mind is a headline in the newspapers from two years previously."
Q. After all England have been through, is the captaincy still important?
A. Hodgson has appointed Steven Gerrard who has captained the team on 13 occasions but has never been given the job on a permanent basis by an England manager until now. Given that, in the recent past, issues around the armband – especially with Terry – have caused so much trouble, is it worth all the fuss? "Yes, probably, funnily enough," Hodgson said. "It's such an honour to play for your country, and we have to get back to that. This may sound naïve, but one of the things that has impressed me with my talks with the players is how much they still prize playing for England. They look me in the eye and say they can't wait, they really want to be there, and the disappointment from the one or two I've left out has been patent. They feel really saddened that they don't have the chance. The captaincy takes it one step further. I want to get a situation where the players feel they can get their ideas across to me. That I am prepared to listen. I am prepared to try and make the training camps as good as they can possibly be given the pressure we're all under. "The captain has to play an important part in that role, working hard with the other players and make sure we're not ignoring a potential problem which could have arisen because we've let it drive past us."
Q. What does Stewart Downing bring to the party?
A. "Stewart Downing has played a part in almost all the [qualification] games, and has done the same for Liverpool this season. Maybe he's been a bit unlucky with his shooting boots in front of goal."
Q. What is Scott Parker's injury situation?
A. "He's had an injection," Hodgson said. "He hasn't played because he's been resting the Achilles injury. It was decided on Monday that he'd have this injection which will probably take a week for us to see if it's been successful or not. I guess [he could still miss out on the Euros]. From what I'm hearing, it won't be a problem. He's very confident."
Q. Why is Jordan Henderson on stand-by?
A. It was just a matter of two hours later that Kenny Dalglish would be sacked by Liverpool, but it was his endorsement that appeared to have convinced Hodgson that he put the 21-year-old in his group of five on stand-by for Euro 2012. "His recent matches have been very good in the centre of midfield. A young player coming to a big club, where there's a lot of competition in the middle of midfield, so you get pushed out to the wider areas where you're not quite as comfortable as you would be playing centrally. In the future, he'll play there. He has tremendous athleticism, great box-to-box ability, and Kenny appreciates that in his play. Stuart Pearce with the Under-21s has been full of praise for Jordan's ability. That's one of the reasons."
Q. Was Andy Carroll selected on the basis of two performances against Chelsea?
A. The selection of Carroll, Hodgson said, was another decision based on the recommendation of Dalglish. Hodgson admitted that he agonised over the selection of his strikers the longest, a reference to Peter Crouch who was narrowly beaten to a place by Carroll. He considered the Stoke City striker as one of his stand-by options. As for Carroll's two performances against Chelsea in the FA Cup final and the league, Hodgson said his decision to pick the Liverpool striker was based on the player's "profile". "The conversation with Kenny maybe put my mind to rest with regards to the criticism he's faced for extra-footballing activities. That was very important for me. "Arguably, the type of player he is balances up with the other type of forwards we have. He will give me other options because of his target play and ability. He's also a player who is capable of making runs into the channels, can turn defences around, and can do damage on crosses. It's a profile issue. But it would be fair to say his late burst has maybe given him the nod."
Q. Why has next week's trip to Spain been cancelled?
A. The trip to the La Cala resort in Malaga was due to leave on Monday before the squad flew on to Oslo on Friday. The four Chelsea players in the squad — John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Daniel Sturridge (on stand-by) — do not meet up with the party until a week on Tuesday. Wayne Rooney, who is suspended for the first two games, has also been given leave to join up then. It meant that Hodgson would be taking a depleted group of players to Spain. Hodgson said that Rob Green, playing in the Championship play-off final for West Ham on Saturday, would also join up late but that has since changed and he will now be with the squad from the original meeting a week on Thursday. "Our first thought was to move it back to the Wednesday and buy some more time," Hodgson said. "To do that, we'd have to fill in the group with other players from the Olympics or Under-21s squad, and take them out. Which would be counter-productive, to a certain extent. So it came from the FA itself, from the chairman, who asked why we were going." Now the team will meet on Thursday and train at Manchester City's Etihad Stadium for two days before flying to Norway.
Q. Is John Terry's racism case awkward for England?
A. The Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine have struggled with racism and violence among supporters and asked about the problem yesterday, Hodgson was disarmingly honest even if it his response may have alarmed Football Association colleagues. "There's no doubt that the issue of racism, especially the Sky report into the hooliganism and violence in Ukraine, is a concern for us all. Not least the supporters who go over there and risk may be getting beaten up, or if they happen not to be white, subjected to a lot of abuse. So it's a concern. But I'm convinced that John Terry is a person who will be able to handle these matters. It's not as if he's a person who's not had a lot of criticism in his life. He's had to deal with that in different areas. He has to stand up and face the situation that he himself has created, but he has the strength of character to do that."
Q. Could the last two weeks have been easier?
A. "The one thing I would have liked to have had in an ideal world, and I'm not regretting the fact I stayed on at West Brom," Hodgson said. "But if I'd had that extra time I could have met more players face-to-face. I've had to call some players and deal with the issues, saying I'm sorry I'm not selecting them, over the telephone. That's my only regret."
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