Paul Parker

Hodgson isn’t brave enough to play Sterling

Paul Parker

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It saddens me to say it, but I think Roy Hodgson is too innately conservative for England to reach their potential at the World Cup.

I’m not saying they can win it – a European team won’t be able to in South America, as history suggests – but if he took brave decisions and played his explosive youngsters who are at the top of their game, the fans would approve of England’s World Cup campaign.


Even if they were beaten, as long as they lose in a fashion which suggests progress is being made, I think England fans would accept that. Hodgson would get a pat on the back too. But my concern is that he will revert to his cautious nature, and starting with Saturday's game against Italy in Manaus.

I think Hodgson will be panicking about the possibility of playing Raheem Sterling, and worried about the implications of starting him against Italy. The red card he got in the Ecuador friendly could be Hodgson’s get-out clause: he can use that incident to bench the Liverpool youngster. It will take a brave man to throw Sterling in and I don’t think Roy is that man.

He will use it as an excuse not to play Sterling because he doesn’t want to get beat. I call him ‘stay-safe Roy’’. He will want to keep it tight in his first game in Brazil. It would be great to really test Italy with the pace of players like Daniel Sturridge and Sterling but I fear Hodgson will only use the latter if we are chasing the game.

If Danny Welbeck is absent due to injury then that might change, but otherwise I see Sterling staying on the bench.

Hodgson throwing caution to the wind doesn’t sound right to me; that’s like turning around and saying England will have 365 days of sunshine. It doesn’t ring true. After years and years of conservatism, is he ready to change now?

He had good technical players at Switzerland and Inter Milan but he never adopted an attacking philosophy there and for him to go and do it now, after all this time, at the World Cup seems very unlikely indeed.

We have never gone into a tournament with such an array of young talents in such impressive form for their clubs, and that is what you are looking for at a World Cup. You are hoping for them to carry their club form into the international arena.

Ross Barkley is another player in such good form, and against Honduras England looked a much more impressive team after he replaced Wayne Rooney in the hole. That’s no surprise to me: Rooney is an old-style No. 10 who likes to play there because he thinks he doesn’t have to run around a lot.

Rooney slows the play up, whereas Barkley has a good change of pace and good athleticism; he can run at people and take them on. Rooney is one-dimensional and his strategy for getting past players is purely brute strength.

He used to have sharpness and a change of pace but that has gone now, and I think it is a waste for England to use Rooney in the No. 10 role. There is an infatuation about playing him – Hodgson was right in that respect – and it would take a brave man to drop him.

I don’t think Roy is that brave man, because he would be concerned about the repercussions too much. For him to drop Rooney it would need the player to have an awful game or pick up an injury.

World Cups are about making names and reputations but you need the chance. Ross Barkley is the kind of player who could take the world by storm. But at the moment, Roy, and quite a few other people, seem to believe that Rooney has to play.

David Platt made his name with us in 1990 after coming on as a sub for someone and then going on from strength to strength, but Barkley is a far better player than Platt. Barkley is more reminiscent of Paul Gascoigne: he is willing to run at players and when he makes a mistake, he is willing to do it all over again.

England fans want to see that. They want some inspiration. And at the World Cup you need a player who can make something out of nothing. You need to be brave and bold and you need other players to work hard and give the star name the platform to perform, as we did with Paul in 1990. Players like that can take the pressure off you and get you back in the game.

I bet if you took an anonymous ballot of all the England players right now, most would vote for Barkley over Rooney. Rooney prevents England playing at a higher tempo, and it won’t have gone unnoticed that all the most successful teams play at a tempo.

Still, it's Hodgson's decision that counts.

- Paul Parker

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