Early Doors

The curious logic of Roy Hodgson

Early Doors

View photo


**Today’s Early Doors is less sarcastic than yesterday’s. Some might even say it strives to make a valid point.**

So Rio Ferdinand is back in the England squad. "Huzzah!" says anyone with an interest in seeing an England team comprised of the best English players.

Ferdinand had been in some weird, 'footballing reasons'-based limbo since June 2011 - left out of the Euro 2012 squad in the most curious circumstances.

Said Roy Hodgson at the time:

"Rio Ferdinand for me is not a player that you call up as a substitute, or to cover for the players that you have. We turned to Martin Kelly because I knew he was going to be someone who would be very useful to us. He's very happy to be here knowing that his chances of playing a big part in the tournament are quite small. You don't turn to people like Rio Ferdinand for that."

He again referred to that logic on Thursday, pretty much confirming that Ferdinand would start the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro.

"A player of Rio's calibre and also of Rio's age, you don't bring them into a squad as back-ups, you bring them into the squad because you want them to make the team better. So it wouldn't take too much guesswork to work out that he's in the squad in order to play rather than to make up the numbers.”

Basically - if you're good or experienced, you don't get into the squad unless you're going to start.

The same logic appears to have done for Joleon Lescott, left out on the basis that "he has been playing so little football".

Fair enough, perhaps - Lescott has, after all, lost his place in the Manchester City team.

But "so little football"? Lescott has started seven games since the turn of the year - one more than Chris Smalling, who gets in despite hardly making himself indispensable at Manchester United.

Smalling is here to play the Martin Kelly role - making up the numbers with no realistic chance of playing.

But who's to say Smalling has the time to muck about sitting on the bench and Lescott hasn't? He might have ironing to do. Or an R 'n' B label to set up.

And maybe Lescott would like to go along, show Hodgson what he can do and maybe give himself a confidence boost.

But Hodgson has decided for him. There's no point.

And that, more than anything, makes Hodgson's policy so damningly self-defeating.

He has basically admitted that the only reason to turn up for international duty is if you're going to play, and he's happy to make up the numbers with kids too naive to know better.

Hodgson already knows his team for the games against San Marino and Montenegro, and the players cast aside won't even get the chance to prove him wrong.

Players like Gareth Barry, who has also been left by the wayside, and will only return when Hodgson deems him worthy of a first-team place.

For established players, you're either in the team or out of the squad.

This leaves England with a core of young players punctuated by some big name freelancers who either turn up and play or don't turn up at all.

It marks an odd, new phase in the evolution of players' relationship with their countries.

In the old days, players were picked for their country and they turned up, whether or not they were likely to feature.

Some players grew tired of getting called up, only to miss out on selection time after time. Others wished to give themselves more rest for the sake of their club career. These people retired from international football.

Hodgson has taken it one step further. He appears to think there's no point turning up unless you're going to play, and has tailored his selection accordingly.

A player as good as Gareth Barry! Wouldn’t make him suffer the indignity of warming the bench.

Thing is, if you asked Barry or Lescott, they probably wouldn't mind.

They'd probably recognise the importance of having strength in depth when playing back-to-back qualifiers, the second of which is at group leaders Montenegro.

After all, Hodgson's refusal to pick a proper squad led to Jordan Henderson's presence on the pitch as England were knocked out of Euro 2012.

Spain's transformation from talented choke artists into serial winners is down to a lot of things - exceptional players; good coaching; perfect pitches; protective refereeing.

But just as important is the way they turned a discordant group of cliques into a tight-knit squad of club-like closeness.

Real Madrid, Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao - the Spanish players fight for each other, understand each other, love each other.

They give their all to the cause regardless of whether they are in the team. And they have been rather successful.

The only thing England players love about each other is their girlfriends.

Hodgson's bizarre logic makes the development of a Spanish atmosphere impossible, because senior players are so often missing from the squad.

England definitely can’t match Spain for skill. If we can't match them for spirit, we've got real problems.

- -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Tonight we suffered what Inter did in London. When the mind isn't working, everything becomes a catastrophe. I think every time Inter scored, they felt stronger and it was like a knife wound for us. We really struggled a lot." Andre Villas-Boas tells Sky Italia about Tottenham's agonising Europa League progress.

FOREIGN VIEW: Juventus teenager Paul Pogba earned his first France call-up against Georgia and Spain in World Cup qualifiers later this month.

Midfielder Pogba, who will celebrate his 20th birthday on Friday, joined Juventus from Manchester United this season and had an immediate impact, scoring five goals from 20 Serie A games.

"I'm not taking him just to visit the Clairefontaine castle (France's training camp base)," coach Didier Deschamps said.

"I have been following him for a while, he's a player of the future. I want to see him with us at training, in the squad," added Deschamps, who said Pogba's shooting abilities were one of the reasons why he had been selected.

Deschamps also included Loic Remy in his 24-man squad, rewarding the forward for his good spell at Queens Park Rangers, after he joined the Premier League side from Marseille in January.

France take on Georgia on March 22 before hosting Spain, who face Finland next Friday.

Real Madrid's Raphael Varane was called up for the third time although the centre back has yet to win a cap after leaving the squad injured the first two times.

Full story

View comments (237)