Roy Hodgson does not share the “doom and gloom” that has followed another dismal summer for England.
Hodgson will take charge of both senior and Under-21 squads for their friendlies with Scotland this week. The situation is a legacy of Stuart Pearce’s exit in the wake of a dismal European Championship campaign at Under-21 level, followed by a similarly disappointing Under-20s World Cup.
And although England’s last outing at senior level was a creditable 2-2 draw in Rio against a Brazil side that went on to lift the Confederations Cup, they have slid down to 14 in the present Fifa rankings, a legacy of a World Cup campaign in which they have failed to beat any of their main rivals.
If that statistic is not altered over the next couple of months, England’s place in Brazil next year will be in jeopardy. Yet Hodgson remains upbeat about the national game. “I don’t share the doom and gloom and I don’t have the energy to put up all the arguments I could to defend the criticism,” he said.
“We obviously did not do well in either of the two tournaments, and I can’t sit here and say everything is hunky dory. Having said that, we did qualify. A lot of good teams did not. But we are disappointed. We had high hopes for both teams. Tournament football is a bit like that, though, and sometimes people extrapolate a little bit too much.”
The paucity of talent at Hodgson’s disposal has been highlighted by his decision to include 31-year-old Southampton forward Rickie Lambert in his squad for Wednesday’s encounter with Scotland.
Lambert has spent most of his career in the lower leagues, yet given doubts over the fitness of Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe and Danny Welbeck, could find himself thrust into the spotlight as England’s number one forward, despite having just one top flight campaign behind him.
“It depends how gloomy you want the picture to be. Don’t forget, there is no Daniel Sturridge here. He is back in training. There is no Andy Carroll,” said Hodgson. “How many forwards do you want? We have not been in the situation where England could choose from 15 top quality forwards for several years. We are not going to be in that situation in the very near future.
“What is important is to make certain we look after and cherish the players we have to get the best out of them.”
And for all current group leaders Montenegro are lauded, Hodgson does not view their situation as being any better. “They have two very good forwards, [Mirko] Vucinic who plays for Juventus and has a transfer value of £30million and [Stevan] Jovetic, who has just been transferred to Manchester City for £25m. That is £55m-worth of talent. I don’t know what they have after that. I would very much doubt there is a Vucinic 2 and a Jovetic 3.”
Hodgson’s work is made harder due to the needs of the Premier League clubs. And while next month’s group qualifying encounters with Moldova and Ukraine are preceded by blockbuster domestic fixtures involving Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham, Hodgson insisted he was relaxed about that and added: “I don’t expect the Premier League to tailor their fixtures around the national team.”