Jim White

Hodgson hamstrung by foreign influx

Jim White

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Well, we know what Harry Redknapp would have said had he been appointed England manager and been in charge for tomorrow's friendly against Norway: 'We're down to the bare bones.'

And Harry would have been right. As rude awakenings go, Roy Hodgson's first game in charge promises to be the equivalent of having a bucket of iced water chucked over your head while anticipating a lazy, hungover lie-in.

Just three weeks away from his first engagement in Euro 2012 and he is heading into an international faced with the prospect of just four players on the bench and a carthorse masquerading as a centre forward. Actually, he has gone beyond the bones and is now staring at a patient entirely stripped of skeleton.

None of this - despite the best efforts of some tabloids to insist it is - is anything to do with Hodgson.

Reports coming out of his first England camp have suggested he has done just about everything right so far — from the appointment of Gary Neville, to the level and intensity of the training. This is a manager of substance and intelligence, not the gibbering old fool of the message boards. The lack of resources available to him is entirely beyond his control.

Even as Hodgson contemplates whether or not to unleash Andy Carroll as his main striker, in France Eden Hazard is having a ball telling everyone who will listen about the auction for his services currently taking place among England's leading clubs.

The Lille midfielder apparently insists that both Manchester sides, Chelsea and Arsenal are keen to sign him up for next season for a wage somewhere adjacent to £175,000 a week. And why not? If you are going to hire yourself out as a mercenary, you might as well ensure you get the highest return possible for your services.

There may not seem an immediate connection between Hazard's next place of employment and Hodgson's woeful lack of selection options. Except in this: the Belgian is just 21, still a player whose potential is entirely in front of him. And here are four of England's biggest footballing institutions, each of them running hugely expensive academies for the past decade, seemingly unable to develop anyone remotely comparable to a young man they are apparently prepared to pay a king's ransom to sign up.

Yet, wasn't that Josh McEachran we saw jogging through the streets of Swindon the other day carrying the Olympic torch? Playing a similar game to Hazard, the Chelsea playmaker is but 19. Wouldn't it make more sense — financially if nothing else — for Chelsea to promote the young player from their own ranks rather than match Hazard's agent's self-aggrandising assessment of his client?

It would certainly help Hodgson's cause if a young Englishman of promise were given first-team experience for the champions of Europe next season. Instead, McEachran's career seems to have stalled. Loaned out to Swansea last season he only made four appearances, none of which exactly set the world alight. In order to strengthen and rebuild, clearly whoever it is making recruitment decisions at Stamford Bridge feels they need to look elsewhere. Which inevitably means abroad.

How Hodgson must wish they would stick to local youngsters and bring them through the ranks. Surely that would be in the best interests of all concerned. Except at Chelsea, the owner is solely concerned with producing a side of his own that can dominate Europe. Frankly, he would prefer it if none of his players turned out in international competitions and spent their summers instead resting and recuperating for forthcoming blue campaigns.

Nor do those in control at Manchester City have any motivation to strengthen England. They want City to become the best club in the world, and thus carry the Abu Dhabi brand into new markets. If Englishmen are available to help them on that route, then all well and good. If not, they will buy in whoever can from anywhere across the globe.

Likewise at Manchester United, where the purpose of the very much alive owner is to maintain the cash flow from the world's most profitable sporting organisation in order to prop up a tottering property empire in Florida. What does Malcolm Glazer care about the future wellbeing of the England national team? If his employees cannot produce an equivalent from their own academy — or rather if the one they do turns out to be flakier than a Cadbury's Flake as Ravel Morrison has — then they will need to shop around to ensure the continuation of their money-spinning prominence.

Thus in the week England's woeful lack of depth has been exposed like rarely before, the talk is all of importing another creative midfielder to plug the gap in our resources. You'd almost think, watching from a distance, that we weren't all on the same side here.

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