Roy Hodgson tips his hat to England's football 'culture'
But 'custodian' of the national team likens trophy hopes to darts – a bit hit and miss
As the great, the good and Sepp Blatter queued up to pay tribute to the Football Association today, Roy Hodgson described football as providing this country with its binding cultural identity – and then borrowed from the nation's pub culture to sum up England's continued attempts to end their long international drought.
The England manager was one of five to have taken the role who assembled in London today as the FA launched the celebrations to mark its 150th anniversary, sitting alongside Fabio Capello, Sven Goran Eriksson, Graham Taylor and Terry Venables.
"I have never resented that," he said today of the relentless attention that accompanies the role. "I have always been aware that football is the culture – the mass culture. Films, plays, books, operas are not for everyone but football really is. That is the ultimate for me. Football is cultural and it is our culture and we should be aware of that."
Amid a slew of high-profile friendlies to mark the anniversary, Hodgson has six qualifiers this year to ensure England reach next year's World Cup in Brazil – including two against the qualifying group leaders Montenegro – as he seeks to set up another shot at winning a trophy.
"Certainly, there is always hope," he said of England claiming such an honour in the next decade or so. "You could compare it to someone who is an amateur darts player – the more darts he gets in and around the centre, one day he is going to get it in the centre. If you spread them all round the board then your chances of getting them in the bullseye are much less."
The focus on the FA and its place in the history of the game also brought home to Hodgson the role that he now plays in leading the national team. He portrayed himself as a "custodian".
"If I hadn't realised the immensity of the honour it was really brought out by today's launch with so many people from all walks of the game, top players, top coaches paying such tribute to the FA," he said. "'Custodian' has got to be the word that people should bear in mind all the time. We can quite easily fall into the hype, the mass media interest in football, the way you can be elevated into positions if you're winning matches [and] fall into the trap of thinking it's about us and we have something special to offer, but it's a custodial job. There have been lots of England managers before me and there will be lots after me.
"I would love to go back to the days when an England manager could walk around and no one would pay much attention – you understand that is not the case today. But you also have to hope the public understand that you are nothing more than a football coach trying to do the job to the best of your ability. You can't satisfy all the demands from every member of the public.
"I was aware of it the other day when the taxi dropped me off at Manchester United and there were 350 people around the barriers screaming for autographs. I'm still at the stage when I don't really want to walk past them. How do you stop and sign 350 autographs?"
Messi and Germany invited to help round off a year of celebrations
Undeterred by Argentina's President, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, last week stepping up the South American country's campaign to regain the Falkland Islands, the FA is to ask Argentina to conclude its 150th anniversary celebrations by coming to Wembley in November.
If the fixture is confirmed it would be the double World Cup winners' first visit to the new stadium and Lionel Messi's first appearance for the Albiceleste in England. Argentina last played in England in 2000.
England are hoping Germany will visit in the same month, for a game likely to be played close to Remembrance Sunday. Oliver Bierhoff, general manager of the German team, said that while arranging fixtures around such a date "could be dangerous" it could also demonstrate how sport can bring people together. Both fixtures would depend on none of the countries needing to play a World Cup play-off.
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