Why I think the FA's move for Hodgson has taken the weight of expectation off England player's shoulders, leaving them free to go all the way...
England has gone further than the group stages of the European Championships just twice in their history. This is an astonishing fact considering the over-confident build up and huge expectation that is usually hung on every England team at major tournaments.
"Of course we feel the weight of history," said Hodgson. "As a top nation we haven't won as many tournaments as we should or done as well as we should. We all feel that weight and there's nothing we can do to take it off our shoulders except make certain we embrace the tournament, that we are not afraid of it and that we believe in ourselves.”
This weight and expectation of course comes from the media. It has done ever since that one solitary tournament success back in ‘66 and this arrogance is humoured, flirted with and encouraged by competing countries, who can clearly see that it contributes to the England national teams downfall, every time. So just why, especially being a Welshman, do I think this tournament will be different for England?
Taking the weight, lowering the expectation
Despite the above quote from Hodgson, both he and the FA has already moved mountains in terms of taking the weight off the player’s shoulders at this years tournament.
With the appointment of Hodgson, instead of media favourite ‘Arry, the FA has made its best political play for decades. The media – who feel it is their God-given right to pick manager, squad and team - are furious with the appointment, crucifying Hodgson before he even held his first press conference and are waiting in the wings for him to fail. This all means that England go into a tournament with low expectations rather than the usual, ‘we have already won it’ media hype, for the first time in decades.
This strategy was something that I believe the FA planned, got Hodgson on board with and is one of the reasons I believe England may go all the way in Euro 2012.
Hodgson is also doing his bit, happily taking criticism from the media, and inviting it in some cases, particularly with the exclusion of Ferdinand. As long as the spot light stays off his players, he’ll be happy to continue to take it in the neck.
Further, Hodgson has stated that he is already planning for the World Cup with his squad selection. This is only working to further lower the expectations of the media, and in turn the nation. This means there is no failure of fear in Hodgson’s squad and players are free to express themselves and enjoy the tournament. This will pay off for England and may enable them to get their hands on the cup.
A dose of realism, a degree of intelligence
Many England teams of the past have believed the media hype that they can beat anyone and win tournaments simply because they 'deserve it'. Hodgson however has used his intelligence and instilled a dose of reality into his team. They are quietly confident in their own abilities; they believe they can complete in the tournament; but they will not be shouting from the rooftops that they will walk into the final.
Therefore, England will be set out to defend well, they’ll be organised and hard-working and they will play on the counter attack rather than naively taking the game to other team as England teams gone by often have, believing the media hype that they can win any game at a canter.
Hodgson’s team will almost be underdog’s for the majority of the tournament and this label will only become more prominent and more of a weapon the further England progress.
Hodgson has selected a blend of new, young and inexperienced players with an eye on the next World Cup and mixed them in a squad with experienced, senior players. It is a shrewd, bold and intelligently selected squad for the future and it will be exciting to see the likes of promising young talents such as Welbeck, Young and Oxlade-Chamberlain playing in amongst the old heads of Terry, Gerrard and Rooney.
It is also worth noting the new manager's international pedigree. He guided the Switzerland national team to the last 16 of the 1994 World Cup and qualification for Euro 1996. Switzerland had not qualified for a major tournament before this since the 1960s.
Will the media be grovelling to ‘Woy’ on 1 July?
Roy is an experienced, well qualified, level-headed man. He is modest, calm, hard-working and intelligent. In my opinion - following the likes of Capello, McClaren, Erickson, Keegan and Hoddle - Roy is a breath of fresh air and perhaps the FA has finally got something right.
With the media for once not expecting success, I believe England can flourish, starting tonight against the French.
The media’s change in attitude and their double standards in attacking a manager before his team had even kicked a ball may, ironically, be the making of England’s success. But after such shameful smears on such a well-respected man in the game, will the media come grovelling at Roy’s feet if he does lead England to glory?
No chance. They will remain arrogant until the end and will never admit their reporting has had a detrimental influence on England football team’s failures of years past.