Hodgson hopeful

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The Independent Online
TAKEN TOGETHER, Blackburn's indifferent start to the season, and the fact that the Football Association have identified Roy Hodgson as the next England coach, could point to two things. Either the Rovers players are so desperate to hang on to their manager that they are determined to damage his credibility, or the FA are about to cock up again.

Yet it is not only the ruling lords of Lancaster Gate who are willing to entice Hodgson back to the sphere where he achieved considerable success with Switzerland. Before finalising their offer to Bayern Munich's Erich Ribbec, the German Federation sounded out Rovers' Roy about their vacancy.

The head hunters can see beyond the Blackburn balance sheet, which shows them deeply in debt after the opening five games of the season. They have accrued just one win, scored just two goals and find themselves lagging near the foot of the Premiership. To compound their troubles they put themselves in danger last week of European demise by conceding a late Ewood Park goal to their Uefa Cup opponents, Lyon.

A more marked contrast to last season's dash from the traps would be hard to envisage. Then, at the same stage, Rovers had four victories on the board and had rammed 15 goals into the opposition's net.

Their present famine is perplexing given the pounds 7m that Hodgson parted with in the summer to unite Kevin Davies with Chris Sutton. Davies has already been left out to accommodate the return of Kevin Gallacher (now injured again) while Sutton would love to begin the task of overhauling last year's 18 total which established him as the Premiership's joint leading marksman.

Hodgson - how he would welcome tomorrow the continuation of the sequence that last term bought matching 1-0 victories over Chelsea in the league - is inclined to direct praise towards the opposition rather than spread criticism among his misfiring forwards.

"Players don't mean to miss chances and we've also had the misfortune to come across goalkeepers in exceptional form," he said. "At Tottenham did Jason [Wilcox] miss a good chance or did Baardsen make a good save? Against Lyon did we miss our chances or was it outstanding saves from their man?

"There is a psychological damage because of the bad results but what we have to ensure is that all the nonsense that is spoken and written about us does not have a negative effect because then we will really suffer. Not only will we be not scoring goals but we will be badly beaten into the bargain."