Paper Round: Hodgson's secrets

England's players have undoubtedly been in better form and mood at Euro 2012 than they were at the World Cup two years ago, and Friday's papers reveal how Roy Hodgson has made it happen.


According to a report in The Sun, it's all about the power of music. Hodgson's policy of insisting all the stars sing the national anthem before matches is credited with making all the difference: "It has worked," an FA 'source' told the paper.

"It's a big year for the country with the Jubilee and the Olympics - it was important that the football team played a part."

That is just one of the team's musical boosts, however: Hodgson has also relaxed Fabio Capello's ban on playing music in the dressing room before the match, and another Sun mole in the England camp says that has been a key factor.

"There's a lot more noise in the dressing room before games under Roy Hodgson and it seems to have helped fire the lads up," England kit man Tommy McKechnie told the paper.

"I've been with them before all three games out here and there's always been music playing — it helps them bond collectively as a team. Under Mr Capello, communal music was banned in the dressing room and the atmosphere was very different... You can still feel the tension before kick-off, but there's now a great sense of professionalism and purpose."

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The Daily Mail, meanwhile, reports in detail on another of Hodgson's methods: he has his team of coaches and scouts working with two video technicians to produce 20-minute scouting reports on each of the side's opponents, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses in a quickfire, flashily-produced short film. The idea is "not to overload the players with too much information", apparently.

That fear of overloading players extends to the training pitch, too: the players have been given two days off training after each match, despite there being only four days between games, to ensure that they get to the pitch full of energy (a clear failing of the side in South Africa). And as if that weren't enough, Hodgson is apparently a master a keeping things light in training with a stream of jokes, fables and stories to entertain his men.

After Thursday's stories about England already planning for penalties, The Times follows up with a piece claiming that the five English players to step up in the event of a shoot-out will be Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young and Glen Johnson.

The order has yet to be decided, but goalkeeper Joe Hart is likely to step up should the shoot-out go as far as sudden death. That sounds like a good incentive for the man between the sticks to make a save or two, but the keeper himself claims in the Mirror that he would welcome a shoot-out and might even mimic Bruce Grobbelaar's famous 'jelly legs' to put opponents off.

Over on the continent, Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport claims that Sunday's match will be fascinating for the chance to see Rooney and Mario Balotelli on opposing sides, but also managers Hodgson and Cesare Prandelli going head-to-head.

Elsewhere on the continent the papers concentrate on Cristiano Ronaldo's performance to put Portugal into the semi-finals, with Portuguese paper A Bola declaring that, "The whole country is singing the song of victory. This team is unstoppable!"

In other news, the Daily Mail reports that Real Madrid are to make Tottenham a £30 million offer to sign Luka Modric.

Jose Mourinho has told Real chiefs to press ahead with an offer, and is confident that the Spanish champions will beat Manchester United to his signature.

The Daily Mirror claims that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is to see his wages trebled at Arsenal, putting him on £45,000 a week, after he fully justified the Gunners' faith in signing him as a teenager.

The same paper reports that it is increasingly unlikely Robin van Persie will stay at The Emirates, however, with Arsenal having "hit a deadlock" in talks over a new deal for the prolific Dutchman.

And finally, most bizarre headline of the day comes from the front of the Daily Star: "For England, Hairy and St George," which leads a story about Wayne Rooney "copying Henry V's hairdo and rallying cry" as adapted from the Shakespeare play. The full story - promised on pages 4, 5, 6 and 7 - makes no further mention of this baffling link. Mystifying.

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