Saturday 7 December 2019

Roy Hodgson: I'm always under pressure as England manager

England manager Roy Hodgson
England manager Roy Hodgson

Paul Hirst

Roy Hodgson thinks the pressure on his shoulders will not ease despite England's encouraging 2-0 victory over Switzerland.

England's dismal World Cup campaign, and the uninspiring win over Norway last week, led some to question whether Hodgson was the right man to lead England forward.

Those critics were silenced on Monday night though as England emerged victorious from what was billed as their toughest Euro 2016 qualifier.

Yet despite the victory, which came courtesy of a Danny Welbeck double, Hodgson knows his team must continue to impress over the next two years to prove the England manager's optimism is not just hot air.

"You're always under pressure," Hodgson said.

"The day when an England manager is not under pressure, we're not asking enough of him and his team so that's never bothered me."

Hodgson has always maintained England's early World Cup exit was down to "fine margins" rather than any dramatic collapse.

The England manager resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes in the wake of the disappointing campaign in Brazil.

He rejected the opportunity to turn to some more experienced heads and instead he has maintained his trust in the youngsters he introduced towards the end of the last qualifying campaign.

"On Monday the players proved what I have been trying to say all along," Hodgson added.

"They proved that - yes the World Cup didn't go our way, and we were very disappointed, but we have been building, we have been changing players, introducing new ones, so it wasn't a question of us suddenly hitting a brick wall (in Brazil). It wasn't a case of - all of a sudden this is all wrong, we have to do something different.

"It was a question of maintaining faith that we're on the right track, that we were getting the right players in the team.

"These young players will be good players without a shadow of a doubt so it was important to get off to a good start against the team in the group which people will be thinking are our biggest rivals."

Hodgson was also happy that his players maintained their desire to play for England despite the winless campaign in Brazil.

"The one thing about these players, and I hope the public understand this, is that they all have a burning desire to play for England," the 67-year-old added.

"Jack Wilshere would play left back if I asked him to.

"That theory that players care more about their club sides is nonsense.

"They care about both. Ever since I encountered these players, there has not been one who has not really shown me that they want to play and do their best for me."

Given that the top two teams qualify automatically from each group, England would have been odds-on to make it to Euro 2016 even if they had lost in Basle on Monday.

And England's next opponents - San Marino and Estonia - should cause Hodgson's team no problems at all.

But with such a straightforward qualifying campaign ahead, Hodgson has the chance to introduce some continuity in terms of personnel and formation.

Hodgson explained he sent England out in a 4-4-2 diamond at St Jakob-Park because he thought it would get the best out of Wilshere and Raheem Sterling.

And the England manager looks set to continue using the system for the rest of the qualifying campaign.

"We put two important players, Jack at the base of the diamond and Raheem further forward, as we thought they would get on the ball more and the Swiss team might find it hard to deal with that, which they did," Hodgson said.

"It was a bold decision, we talked a lot about it.

"We thought there was no point in playing a conventional 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 to try to get a 0-0. We want this team to progress all the time.

"We want them to learn, to get better, to play in the systems we want them to play in so why not start as you mean to continue rather than say 'this is an important game, we mustn't get beaten' and therefore throw all of our principles out of the window."

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