Hodgson tackles questions head-on

In fairness, the question was posed by a man from China, who has not had many opportunities to ask.

In fairness, the question was posed by a man from China, who has not had many opportunities to ask.

It was something plenty of England fans wondered seven weeks ago, when it became clear Roy Hodgson was the man who would be succeeding Fabio Capello.

As Hodgson’s CV does not measure up to the £6m-a-year Italian, did he believe he was a worthy successor?

The 64-year-old took the question in his stride. No histrionics, no anger, just a quick appraisal of his own career and a belief it provided him with the necessary tools for the task.

“The FA chose the man they wanted for the job,” he said after last night’s 3-2 victory over Sweden.

“Luckily that was me and I was more than happy to accept it.

“I don’t comment about what’s written about me.

“I try to do my job and rely on the fact I’ve been doing it for 36 years and am looking forward to doing it for a few years in the future.”

These have been an impressive few weeks for Hodgson.

Indeed, it is now largely accepted, even amongst the most cynical, that if England were to falter in Donetsk on Tuesday and fail to collect the point against co-hosts Ukraine that would secure a quarter-final berth, Hodgson would still emerge on the credit side of the ledger.

There are two reasons for this.

He is not Capello for a start. He speaks English properly, can expand on answers, respond, or not as he so chooses, to themes and truly share in the hopes of those who follow a nation in a manner a foreign national, no matter how committed to the cause, cannot.

It’s more than that.

Hodgson has also proved himself to be a pretty useful custodian of the Three Lions’ legacy.

He makes decisions people do not agree with. Axing Rio Ferdinand sparked a controversy that provides a reference point for the very early stage of his tenure.

On Tuesday, Hodgson will be forced to choose between Danny Welbeck and Andy Carroll to partner the returning Wayne Rooney, and both have their supporters.

However, there is a clarity about Hodgson’s thinking that generates a sense of a man in command.

Without being overtly powerful, he makes big decisions.

That two of the key ones so obviously went his way in Kiev last night following the performances of Carroll and substitute Theo Walcott helps of course.

Yet Hodgson has proved willing to tackle major issues head on.

In the autumn, it will be fascinating to see how his squad shapes up for the start of a geographically challenging World Cup qualifying campaign, especially if Jack Wilshere, Jack Rodwell, Tom Cleverley and Chris Smalling are fit.

Already Hodgson is embracing youth, as the trust placed in Welbeck shows.

However, he is eager to spread responsibility across the more experienced members of his squad too.

“It does give me great pleasure,” said Hodgson, when asked about the young players ’clicking’.

“But I have to be pleased with the older guard as well.

“John Terry and Joleon Lescott in particular were very good against a Swedish team that can ask a lot of questions.

“In midfield, Steven Gerrard gave another captain’s performance.

“All teams need to know that, even if they’ve had an excellent generation of players, there’s something coming along that’ll replace them and put players in the team under pressure.”

And so back to Donetsk, where the thunderstorm that erupted over the Donbass Arena last night will be replaced by ear-splitting noise of a completely different kind as a partisan home crowd demand a win that would see their own side through.

“I’m happy that a positive result would see us through the group,” said Hodgson.

“There are no easy pickings for us so our goal has to be that we don’t slip from the standards of these first four games.”

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