Agitated Hodgson lashes out at growing England criticism
Published 26/06/2016 | 02:30
Roy Hodgson was just winding up to deliver one of the most passionate defences of his management of the England team when a reporter, keen to ask his own question, interrupted the 68-year-old.
Rather than take the easy way out and dodge addressing the criticism he has received, Hodgson said: "Just one second. I have to go through the histories first. Because I accept so many nonsenses that are said to me and written that I don't often get a chance to put things right. So I'd like to put one or two of them right."
The assembled pack hushed again and Hodgson was given the platform to justify the six changes against Slovakia, including resting captain Wayne Rooney, that have been blamed for England's failure to win Group B and go into what appears to be the easier half of the Euro 2016 knockout draw.
"They weren't wholesale changes from the team that finished the game against Wales," Hodgson said. "And the team that won the game in the second half against Wales, if I remember it correctly, was actually applauded and people thought it was the right team. So I don't really understand that side of it.
"I don't understand criticism of the full-backs because Tottenham Hotspur, and we're aware what players do in their club sides, they don't play Danny Rose and Kyle Walker three matches in a week. They play two others. And I would suggest that Nathaniel Clyne had a very, very good game, so I don't see what the point is.
"Really, you bring it down to two players that are being questioned - should Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney have played in place of Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere? What did you think Henderson was like?" This particular reporter answered: "I thought he played well." Hodgson continued: "So we're talking about one man. And that is amusing to me because, of all the players, I've actually had to stand up and put my neck on the line and defend and stick my chin out and say, 'I don't care what anyone else thinks, Wayne Rooney is going to the Euros. Wayne Rooney is our captain and Wayne Rooney is going to play'.
"And now we didn't score against Slovakia, despite 29 shots and 15 corners and God knows what else, because Wayne Rooney didn't play more than 30 minutes? Well, excuse me. I find it hard to go along with that line of argument that I should now regret the fact that I didn't start with Rooney or that I didn't start with Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. What if I had started with them and lost the game, I would have been criticised.
"The criticism is very simple. At the end of the game you can play well or you can play badly. We won all our three preparation games. I don't think we played particularly well in any of the three, but we won them. So everyone was hunky dory and fine.
"Here, in my opinion, we've played better. I think it bodes well for the future, what we're doing here. But we haven't won, so therefore results are bad and therefore we are bad. That's life. I accept it.
"I'm not trying to gloss over that in any way. But I can't be as facile as to say, 'Yeah, you're right. I wish to God now we had played Wayne Rooney'. Because I don't know if we'd played Wayne Rooney the score would have been any different. It wasn't when he came on."
In terms of England's performances so far in France, Hodgson said: "I don't think it is great that we have dominated and not won the games. If that criticism is there, I don't think it is good we need so many chances to score a goal. I am a football coach and players would agree with me as well, if that is the criticism, we'll have to accept it.
"I would be a bit surprised if you said that I was getting a lot of criticism as people are saying the team is no good. That would surprise me a bit and I would try to defend that. But I don't think there is anything to defend personally about the way the actual team has worked, the amount of effort put in and their desire to win the game, the quality of their passing and movement, the control they have had.
"I don't personally see they should be criticised for that. But, yes, criticise me and the team because we haven't won, by all means. There is nothing we can do about that. That is a fair criticism and we'll try to put it right by winning the next one."
The next one may well be another war of attrition with Iceland, who England face in Nice tomorrow night, and who are expected to copy the example set by Slovakia and put plenty of men behind the ball.
Should England win, then they will most likely have to get past France and Spain or Germany to reach the final, but Hodgson believes his team's opponents have as much reason to worry as his players.
"I agree, they do look like stronger teams, but you don't know how they're going to play," said Hodgson. "Spain surprised everybody by, like ourselves, not winning their group.
"The other thing is that, if you want to go further in the competition, you're going to meet these teams - you'll meet them in the quarters, the semis or the final itself. So, I don't think it's a spurious argument, but it's one that I don't make because I have faith in this team. I think it's a good team, a good bunch of players, they're giving their all for the team. Whoever we play will not be jumping for joy at the prospect of facing us."