Conservative Hodgson must allow England to cut loose

Conservative Hodgson must allow England to cut loose
England coach Roy Hodgson reacts at the end of their international friendly football match against Ecuador, ahead of the 2014 World Cup, in Miami June 4, 2014.

LONDON - In the year that England enjoyed their greatest football success by winning the World Cup in 1966, one young Englishman was facing an altogether uncertain future after being released by his club without making the grade as a professional.

That man was current England coach Roy Hodgson, who now faces the difficult task of getting it just right if his team are to win the World Cup for the first time since Crystal Palace cast him adrift almost half-a-century ago.

He must decide whether to allow England's young players to cut loose and express their attacking talents or to adopt a more measured and conservative approach. "I don't think you can win games very easily if you allow the opposition that kind of time and space," he told reporters. "But it is important to be organised," he said before resorting to his own stock-in-trade tactic - the ability to sound eloquent while keeping his cards very close to his chest.

He can do that fluently in five languages, English, French, German, Italian and Swedish. "One needs to be very wary of saying: 'This is going to be our style'," he said. "Football is, and always will be, about winning matches. You can't ever sacrifice the chance to win a game because of a certain style that you've decided to adopt."

What is certain is that Hodgson is in a relatively enviable position as he becomes the first English coach to lead England at a World Cup since Glenn Hoddle in France 16 years ago.

EXCITING NEWCOMERS

Although he faces every coach's dilemma of balancing his squad between established performers and exciting newcomers, he has a far bigger pool of bright young players to choose from now than seemed likely three or four years ago.

Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson of Liverpool, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere of Arsenal, Everton's Ross Barkley and Luke Shaw of Southampton are all in the squad. "There are no right or wrong answers to this," Hodgson said in his charmingly old-fashioned and polite way. "This is not just a problem for a football coach but for all coaches in all sports, it's a classic dilemma. "Before we went to the Euros in 2012 we lost Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Gary Cahill, John Ruddy, Kyle Walker. Wayne Rooney could not play in the first two games because of suspension. "They had all been part of my plans for weeks, and suddenly, at the last minute they were all gone. It can be a problem, but I can deal with it."

That is because, at 66, he will be the second oldest coach at the finals behind Uruguay's Oscar Tabarez, and has 38 years coaching experience with 16 teams, club sides and international ones, in eight countries.

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