World Cup 2014: 'Call me Roy' Hodgson stays cool and keeps England options open before Italy game

Relaxed style has produced a happy England camp while manager avoids being beholden to star players

Saturday night felt a long way from those days when David Beckham was last part of an England World Cup squad and Sven Goran Eriksson tried unsuccessfully to persuade his captain to play right-back against Ecuador. In the end, Owen Hargreaves was shunted out there and England – lopsided, compromised – staggered onwards to be beaten on penalties by Portugal in the quarter-finals.

The former England captain was in a private hospitality box at the Sun Life Stadium on Saturday to watch the Honduras game, now embroiled in local Miami politics trying to get a football stadium built. Eriksson is in China, and a good deal more honest about England’s real standing on the world stage, judging by recent comments. Hargreaves, sadly, is no longer a professional footballer at the age of 33.

As for the 2014 generation of England players, at least you can say the old rules of the untouchables that existed in 2006 are gone. In those days, Eriksson seemed to rule more by negotiation. Then at the last World Cup finals Fabio Capello would not compromise with anyone. Now there is Roy Hodgson, whose reign will inevitably be demolished in four years’ time by his former players if things go badly. That is one of the immutable laws of being England boss.

There has been a sunniness about the mood of squad and manager over the past week but we have been here too many times to hang a hat on that. Eriksson’s calm was just what was needed after Kevin Keegan, or so we thought until things started going wrong. Steve McClaren was refreshingly English. Then he was just not sophisticated enough. Capello’s authoritarianism was perfect to wake the “golden generation” up from their complacency. Now there is Hodgson and his relaxed “call-me-Roy” style of management. Hindsight tells us that judgement is best reserved.

But at least Hodgson has not allowed himself to become beholden. Beholden in the same way that Eriksson was to Beckham, desperate to pick the player even when he was not completely fit. Capello became beholden to Wayne Rooney, unwilling to drop him in 2010 even though he was clearly way off the pace. Every England manager since Rooney broke through in 2003 has felt that way to a lesser or greater extent.

This time, however, Hodgson has laid the groundwork for a different approach to Rooney, and the team in general, as England begin their preparation in Rio de Janeiro. Moving Rooney to the left against Ecuador demonstrated that he is not simply a fixture at No 10. Now Hodgson has to perm a front four from Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, Rooney, Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana and Danny Sturridge, with the safe assumption that Sturridge is a certainty to start.

Of the remaining players, it is Hodgson’s view that broadly speaking they can play anywhere across that trio of positions. The injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cuts down his options by one but even now, five days before they play Italy in Manaus, England’s team for that game could evolve in a number of different ways. Rooney central, with Sterling and Lallana either side. Or Welbeck instead of Sterling on the right. Or even Sterling or Barkley central with Rooney on the left.

Hodgson said after the Honduras game that he had previously hoped to give the suspended Sterling time in the playmaker position behind Sturridge, one that the teenager has occupied for Liverpool this season. Instead, after Rooney it was Barkley who performed that role as a substitute in the second half – again showing great promise along with the occasional naïvety that might make Hodgson think twice for Saturday.

“There is the boy we haven’t seen yet [in the No 10 position], Raheem Sterling,” Hodgson said. “There is a good chance he would have played in that position had he not been sent off. It is not purely Barkley or Rooney, we have got Danny Welbeck who can do it, we have got Sterling. If we are going to play whatever you call that role we have got a few people who can do it. Raheem Sterling was unable to try out for the No 10 role after being sent off against Ecuador Raheem Sterling was unable to try out for the No 10 role after being sent off against Ecuador

“I hope I shall resist the temptation to earmark [players into positions] too much. When you have got players who are capable of playing in different positions it is a bit dangerous to say ‘Well, the only way you’re going to play is if this happens.’

“I really want to leave things a little bit open but my frustration, apart from the frustration of having to watch that game, was the frustration that Raheem Sterling couldn’t take any part in it because he’s been excellent in training. It would have been nice to have given him a game beforehand, but now he’ll have to compete for a place not having had these warm-up games.”

Hodgson said that just because he is not prepared to disclose his line-up for the Italy game, that does not mean he himself does not know what it is. He described the accusation that he does not know his best side as “a bit of sophistry”, a classic Hodgson line that gives the full scope of the vocabulary at his disposal. Far more wide-ranging than the pool of English talent he has to choose from.

The Football Association will open up their Urca training ground for the first time today, with 1,100 locals invited to watch the squad train. There will be a trip to the Rocinha favela for some of the players and amid all this not much chance to work privately on systems and formations. If Hodgson has already made up his mind, the players can at least take comfort in knowing they all had a chance.

Boys to Brazil: Dispatches from the England camp

Phil Jagielka on tweeting “decent start from the boys” seconds before Ecuador’s goal

“I just wanted to wish the boys good luck but it took me too long to work out how to do it and by the time I’d pressed ‘send’, literally 20 seconds later, Ecuador scored. I was thinking: how do I delete this? Bainesy told me: ‘You’ve got no chance, just deal with it.’ It’s been classed the ‘Tweet of Death’.”

Leighton Baines on meeting Morrissey in Miami

“I was a bit nervous about going to speak to him. I wasn’t sure how it would be received. I was one of the few in the squad who knew who he was, which was disappointing enough. I knew he’d played the night before and he had a couple of gigs coming up, so I mentioned those and he wished us good luck.”

Joe Hart on the new World Cup finals ball, the Brazuca

“It’s been fine with us. We’ve had plenty of time to work with it. It’s a football and people are good at smashing it. Is it any different to balls in the past? No. It’s round.”

Roy Hodgson on the performance of referee Ricardo Salazar against Honduras

“He didn’t seem to know who had committed the foul and whether he should be blowing his whistle, and of course he allowed them to sometimes take a long time to take a free-kick to take the sting out of the game.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
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

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links