In a week’s time, the World Cup will be underway. The talking (and hopefully the build-up) will have stopped, and the eyes of the sporting world will be firmly trained on Brazil.
Excitement is growing, and judging by some of Roy Hodgson’s recent comments, so is the tension. I’m a huge fan of the England manager and have a great deal of sympathy for him; he is trying to walk the tightrope of managing expectations whilst still keeping the media and the nation updated. It’s a tough job, and I think there’s a hint of it starting to show.
That said, I’m not overly concerned about Hodgson’s demeanour. He’s an experienced and intelligent professional who will have everything meticulously planned. A few curt answers to journalists doesn’t mean he’s been knocked out of his stride.
What would upset me is if Roy isn’t true to his word when it comes to style of play. In the lead up to the World Cup he has consistently said that England will look to stamp their authority on their fixtures, taking the game to the opposition. After several tepid, timid tournament appearances, this was music to my ears. We have a talented, exciting, confident squad and it’s time to give them the freedom to live up to their potential.
The home friendly with Peru took the wind out of my sails somewhat. Hodgson fielded a strong team, but in truth it turned in a rather functional display to beat a young Peru side. This week’s game with Ecudaor on the other hand, was much more like it. Yes we looked frail defensively, but going forward England looked exciting. They looked threatening. They looked entertaining.
When Hodgson named a squad peppered with young and inexperienced players, it was my hope that they would play without the shackles of previous failures, without worrying about the past. Against Ecuador, the likes of Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain did just that. It was far from a perfect performance, but in truth, it was a joy to behold. Gone was the sterile, passive, meek, formulaic England of old, this was a team that gave the opposition plenty to worry about, and it felt good.
With one warm-up game remaining, Hodgson and England have one last chance to get it right before taking to the field for real in Manaus. If I’m honest, I expect a slightly more circumspect performance against Honduras, but that doesn’t mean Hodgson should abandon the attacking freedom on display earlier this week. We’ve had a glimpse of what these players can do in the famous white shirt of England and there is no reason they can’t repeat it when it really counts.
Be brave Roy, and give these guys the chance to write themselves into history and forge a place in our hearts. There’s only one way to find out if they’ve got what it takes and that’s to give it a go, to risk failure, to roll the dice.
It’s time to let England off the leash.
Mike Parkin is a lifelong football fan, a season-ticket holder at Watford FC and a fervent supporter of the national team. Mike presents the popular Watford podcast ‘From the Rookery End’ and will be documenting his trip to the World Cup on the website: www.fromtherookeryend.com. You can also see Mike’s images on Instagram (RookeryEnd) whilst you can interact with Mike directly on Twitter by following @RookeryMike.