No reason to be angry at drab display - Hodgson
Published 09/06/2015 | 02:30
Twenty-five years have elapsed since Paul Gascoigne took on the world at Italia '90, taking on opponents and taking on the challenge of making England dream.
He passed and dribbled, laughed and cried, and did so again at Euro '96.
Twenty-fours had elapsed since Wayne Rooney, Raheem Sterling and company laboured in Dublin and the man they constantly fail to live up to was strolling into a London cinema for the premiere of a film celebrating his life on the pitch. Gascoigne is a movie about the footballer not "Gazza" the off-field, oft-troubled, complex character.
Gascoigne had his quiet games, his rash moments, but he scored 10 times in 57 internationals and there was invariably a buzz when he was in possession.
The focus on Gascoigne felt particularly relevant because of events in Dublin. It was only a friendly, and it needs recording that England have improved since the 2014 World Cup, but Gascoigne would not gave settled for the sloth in those famous white shirts. Rooney had a particularly anonymous match and looked in post-season wind-down mode but with 47 goals in 104 games can be spared excessive criticism. Rooney has carried England in the past.
Sterling, still an emerging talent with much to prove, has to learn to live with the expectation, dealing with criticism. Jack Wilshere, whose drive and personality have brought occasional comparisons to Gascoigne, at least did engage a higher gear than most at the Aviva.
Ross Barkley, who came off the bench, brings that element of verve and unpredictability to central midfield but is not yet trusted by Roy Hodgson. At 21, Barkley is the same age as when
Gascoigne was being backed by Bobby Robson.
Hodgson has to trust such game changing talents more. Similarly, the players have to demonstrate more zeal than in Dublin. There was no intensity, no ambition, deficiencies noted in certain players when they reported to St George's Park.
"Some were on the beach," according to an England source. No wonder Hodgson ordered longer training sessions to try to shake them into life. England are cruising towards Euro 2016 but cannot travel with similar torpor to Ljubljana for Sunday's qualifier against scheming Slovenians like Kevin Kampl and Josip Ilicic. They cannot repeat such lack of boldness in France.
"I don't get angry,'' replied Hodgson of his reaction to the players. "I made it perfectly clear that what I would say to you (press) they would hear first. I didn't want them picking up the paper and thinking, 'I didn't know about that'. 'Angry' would be too strong a word. I have no reason to be angry because we have just played our 10th game unbeaten - if I did that I would destroy relationships.
"Jack Wilshere was excellent the minutes he played, Jordan Henderson was good, James Milner was good. Phil Jones played well. We have learnt some lessons, the most important is the one I said to them, 'When you set yourself high standards you have to match them.'
"We must be careful of business-speak but it is, 'reminding people of their responsibilities' - that's the latest one, isn't it?
"Although it was a performance that we will not go home and dream about there's no reason to be angry. We have set very high targets. This might sound boastful but we believe we are going to get to the finals in 2016 and there will be some tough games there."
He also offered support for Sterling, whose desire to leave Anfield drew barracking from many of the Liverpool followers amongst the Irish support. "Liverpool have incredible support here in Ireland,'' Hodgson said. "I suppose if you can't accept being booed and jeered by rival fans you are in the wrong game basically if you want to play for England. You will get plenty of booing and jeering in Slovenia as well and you will probably even get a little bit in San Marino so you better learn to live that. That shouldn't bother you.
"I'd be more concerned if it was our fans booing him. At the moment he is being portrayed as someone who in some way is hurting Liverpool so unfortunately the Irish fans will turn on him."
The 20-year-old certainly needs his future sorting. "No,'' Hodgson countered. "What it does is make it important that he develops the necessary manner or wherewithal to deal with it.
"He can't control if people are going to boo and jeer. The one thing he can control is this: he can be the player we think he is, do the things he does on the field we admire so much and no amount of booing and jeering can change that." (© Daily Telegraph, London)