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Chance for England to lay foundations for the future

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David Bond | 11:54 UK time, Monday, 11 June 2012

In Donetsk

England supporters arriving in the centre of sun-baked Donetsk on Monday morning might have expected to find themselves immediately under siege.

Even before the BBC's Panorama report two weeks ago, Ukraine was getting a very bad press. For a group of fans who were once more feared than fearful, it's had a big impact. Some of the supporters who have made the journey here admitted they thought twice about coming.

So far it's clear they had little to worry about. It is true that the hotels are poor and extortionate, and getting here has been a nightmare. One supporter spoke of a 13-hour train journey from Kiev, while there have been horrendous flight delays from European connecting airports. Many are flying in and straight out again.

This mining city (it was actually founded by a Welshman) is the most eastern outpost of Euro 2012. Its wide roads are lined by drab Soviet apartment blocks while in the main square a giant statue of Lenin provides a jolting reminder of this country's past. This city was once known as Stalino.

Donbass Arena

France have acclimatised to the heat of Donetsk while England have been in Krakow. Photo: AFP

But Lenin Square also reveals how far Ukraine and the Eastern Bloc have travelled. To the left of Lenin's statue is a giant McDonald's - without question the biggest attraction in the area.

It's certainly a culture shock. But it is worth remembering England started their last major tournament in Bafokeng, an isolated territory in the South African Highveld which had its own tribal king.

For Roy Hodgson's new-look England the preparations for Euro 2012 have swung in completely the opposite direction - a corrective reaction to the disaster of Fabio Capello's World Cup campaign.

Based in the bustling old market square of Krakow, south Poland, Hodgson's England are determined to win hearts and minds by being more open and accessible. It's gone down well. But there is a danger that they have swapped the "golden cage" - as Hodgson described the Rustenburg situation for England in South Africa - for the tourist trap.

If things go really badly there will be few places for his players to hide.

Then there is the heat. Krakow might not have been as cool as England right now, but the climate there is far more moderate. Here in Donetsk the mercury will touch 90 degrees by the time the game against France kicks off.

Captain Steven Gerrard said it was the same for both teams, but the French have been staying nearby and will have acclimatised. It must make a difference.

I asked Hodgson on Sunday if he would have done it this way. He replied he was very happy with the arrangements. He could hardly say anything else but Capello's legacy has not made life easy for his successor.

Despite that, a gentle optimism and confidence have been rising in the camp. Both Hodgson and Gerrard exuded it on Sunday. A quiet and subtle defiance.

The truth is no-one has a clue what to expect. And it is worth just re-stating how badly things have gone for England since Capello guided the team smoothly to these finals.

First the most important member of the team, Wayne Rooney, got himself suspended with a badly judged tackle in the final qualifier against Montenegro.

Then John Terry was accused of racially abusing the brother of Rio Ferdinand. After dithering in the autumn, the Football Association acted decisively in the winter, stripping him of the captaincy.

That in turn provoked Capello to challenge the FA's authority, leading to that dramatic and unexpected parting of the ways in February. If there is a worse template for preparing for a major tournament I would like to see it.

All of which has given Hodgson, just 40 days in the job, the unusual luxury of time and low expectations. FA chairman David Bernstein is so certain he has found the right man in Hodgson that he is unlikely to panic even if England were hammered in their three Group D matches. Bernstein is determined to see out his long-term vision and has already struck up a good rapport with the former Liverpool manager.

So what will be a measure of success at this tournament?

In any other situation, looking at a group which includes France, Sweden and Ukraine, the quarter-finals would be the bare minimum. But this time that will be viewed as a major achievement.

Harry Redknapp believes England have one of the best defensive units in the world game and who knows what might happen if Rooney finally gets the chance to show what he is capable of at a big tournament.

Hodgson will also want to see the younger players - Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - take advantage of the benevolent atmosphere to soak up the experience of a big tournament.

The World Cup in Brazil in 2014 (assuming England qualify of course) will feel very, very different. Hodgson and England know they mustn't miss this chance to start laying the foundations for the future.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Its wide roads are lined by drab Soviet apartment blocks while in the main square a giant statue of Lenin provides a jolting reminder of this country's past. This city was once known as Stalino.
    ----------

    Could it be any worse than places like Middlesborough, Burnley, Blackburn and the like.

    David you must stop mentioning the panorama programme its tiring.

  • Comment number 2.

    COM'ON ENGLAND

  • Comment number 3.

    oh, yawn on Rob04 with your comments regarding Middlesbrough.

    you are the one who is tiring.

  • Comment number 4.

    "If things go really badly there will be few places for his players to hide".

    Dear Oh Dear. This really is an upbeat piece. I know expectations are rock bottom with Roy Hodgson steering the ship safely towards the rocks, but this whole blog reads like it was written by Eeyore.

  • Comment number 5.

    Bernstein picked Hodgson because he's a 'yes-man' and will tow the uninspiring line. If England fail miserably there must be nowhere to hide for the current FA administrators who do not have the sense to pick a manager with originality.
    But of course, if England seem to succeed then they will be looking good. Which begs the question; how is success measured for the England camp at this years Euros? Are we happy just to qualify out if our group? It seems so. And doesn't that just show exactly how ambitious the FA is?
    If there is a massive dissappintment in Ukraine the FA must be reorganised with wiser heads, especially considering the poor handling of the Terry racism affair.
    There will definitely be no place to hide!

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    1. At 13:48 11th Jun 2012, Rob04 wrote:

    Give it a rest mate.

  • Comment number 8.

    Was there any point to this tediously downbeat tosh. For gods sake give it a rest and concentrate on the actual football.

  • Comment number 9.

    'First the most important member of the team, Wayne Rooney, got himself suspended with a badly judged tackle in the final qualifier against Montenegro.'

    Come on David, that is just pathetic. He kicked out at someone, it wasn't in any way, shape or form a tackle. He's an idiot, don't try and cover for him.

  • Comment number 10.

    Could it be any worse than places like Middlesborough, Burnley, Blackburn and the like.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Do you see Euro games being played in any of these town in the future/past?

  • Comment number 11.

    There will be places to hide. How about the heat, the cold, the rain, the dry conditions, boredom, the base camp, tiredness, or no Joe Cole? I wonder what the weather was like on that evening in 1966 when England won the forst, the last, and the only trophy?

  • Comment number 12.

    9.
    At 14:28 11th Jun 2012, Boundaries wrote:

    'First the most important member of the team, Wayne Rooney, got himself suspended with a badly judged tackle in the final qualifier against Montenegro.'

    Come on David, that is just pathetic. He kicked out at someone, it wasn't in any way, shape or form a tackle. He's an idiot, don't try and cover for him.
    ===========================================================
    to be honest if i were an england player i'd be getting banned for most major comps. the players come back to hostile fans and headlines that are capable of destroying someones career. if england were to get rid of that maybe then the players could prefer to the level most do at club level.

  • Comment number 13.

    Fed up of all the 'upbeat' lets look at the positives views. We need to be realistic England have arguably the best league in Europe - but has that helped us to have the best national team in europe? Not in my opinion.

    Evra, Ben Arfa, Cabye, Mouluda, nasri all play in the prem - so we should be confident of at least having a fair chance against them - not all this come on look on the bright side - Look at the facts the oppositions top players play in our league - we should at least be able to match them.

  • Comment number 14.

    the Donbass Arena was designed by Arup Sport, a British company, mainly out of their manchester office

  • Comment number 15.

    2-1 England

  • Comment number 16.

    Surely RH is more formerley the WBA manager? I am sure he's had a job since being sacked/leaving Liverpool?

  • Comment number 17.

    Lokacious - - Well pointed out.

  • Comment number 18.

    Take no notice of the often wrong, normally excrutiating author.

    Enjoy the football.

  • Comment number 19.

    Hodgson's getting pigeon-holed as a conservative, boring manager before he's even started... let's just see what he actually does on the day shall we?

    The international teams he has managed in the past only offered scope for an anti-football strategy, whereas I'd argue that he is setting England up as a counter-attacking team which, for me, is exactly what he should be doing.

  • Comment number 20.

    Come on People - some match predictions please...................

  • Comment number 21.

    20.
    At 15:04 11th Jun 2012, the_diego wrote:

    Come on People - some match predictions please...................
    __________________________________________

    0-0. Can there be any other result really?

  • Comment number 22.

    5-1 England.

    Gerrard x 2, Young, Carroll x 2 when he's brought on in place of the powderpuff Welbeck.

  • Comment number 23.

    10. Disco, I'm assuming he means Middlesbrough and although it has never hosted a Euros there was quite a bif match in 1966 where the North Koreans sprang a surprise.

  • Comment number 24.

    2-2, error strewn high tempo game with loads of chances (we can dream)

  • Comment number 25.

    and the olympic warm up games coming up next month.
    the u21's played there a few months back.
    oh, and hosted a full england game a few years back too.

    so, yeah. nothing at all.

  • Comment number 26.

    I agree that this tournament should be viewed as nothing more than an opportunity to "blood" some of the younger squad members and to give some of the older heads a chance at one final hurrah but i'm sceptical as to whether that was ever the FA or Hodgson's plan, let alone as to whether he's the right man for the job.

    Had injuries not forced his hand and had a certain defender not allegedly insulted another certain defenders brother, then i'm fairly confident that Hodgson would have picked a nigh on identical squad to that which Capello had in mind.

    Hart is the obvious choice in goal but every other position, bar maybe Rooney, there are a number of options that should have made the tournament aside from the tried and (un)trusted veterans of the International scene. How for instance is Glen Johnson in ahead of Micah Richards? what football has Hodsgon been watching? Certainly not Man City or Liverpool games judging by that choice. Stewart Downing ahead of Adam Johnson is another choice i find baffling, one with absolutely no assists or goals next to his name despite playing the entire season and the other with a handful of the same after only fleeting appearances.

    Hodgson has made a name for himself in the sport with his ability to make teams solid. Nothing more, nothing less. He drills a team into a solid and hard to beat side, his teams will never trouble the best of teams but you stand little to no chance of scrapping for survival either. He's also not best known for discovering new talent, his ability to do so has to be seen as sketchy as best.

    A manager that still uses a rigid 442 formation, that trusts more in the experience of certain players than the unpredictability of a younger generation and who is best known for making average players good than good players great is, i would suggest, precisely the wrong sort of manager for what should be a couple of years of experimentation and innovation. A young manager without the burden of expectation should have been given the job to mould a new generation in a new style.

    Instead we get an English version of Capello with only half his ability. But he's a nice bloke though so thats ok, apparently.

  • Comment number 27.

    The Jury's rightly still out on Hodgson.
    It's the inept FA, led by a blustering Bernstein and poor decision making that should take some responsibility.
    Handling the Terry situation should have been left in the hands of Capello.
    Then having a shortlist of one was absurd.
    You also feel that Hodgson was pressurised by the FA into not picking Ferdinand.
    However it would be good to see England prove everybody wrong and turn in an impressive display.
    However there are some excuse with injuries and Rooney not be available for selection.
    However why is Downing there?
    He's not the real deal.
    Hodgson can approach this game two ways.
    Here's hoping.
    1. Damage limitation - park the Bus
    2. Pick an attacking line-up/formation and try and win in style
    It could well be damage limitation as Hodgson knows this only too well.
    But he could surprise us.

  • Comment number 28.

    2-1 England...

    The Ox feeds Young for a goal in the first 5 mins, then we sit back until Benzema claws one back for the French just before half-time.

    A cagey second half is laborious to watch until Milner, having put in a lot of hard miles, is replaced by Walcott at around 70mins... who then proceeds to tear apart the French defence again and again whilst in the process missing loads of easy chances (as per normal)

    Luckily, one of the lumbering French Centre-backs brings him down for a penalty at 88mins which Gerrard bangs in (although he was lucky because t was straight down the middle)

    Or something like that...

  • Comment number 29.

    why is everyone complaining about Hodgsons 'boring and safe' approach to this tournament? England are a solid but boring and unspectacular team. No manager is ever going to turn England into a team like Spain.

  • Comment number 30.

    I do not know what the author of this article means when he refers to Rustenburg as "an isolated territory in the South African Highveld ..." This is very much incorrect and quite misleading as it only takes 1 hour and some few minutes to get there using the N4, a major highway to Botswana.

  • Comment number 31.

    3-1 England
    Then we'll lost to Sweden and Ukraine

  • Comment number 32.

    Three tiresome negative cynical articles in a row from Bond.

    What a fantastic contribution to the human race.

  • Comment number 33.

    This is more like it - COME on ENGLAND - Victory is there to be taken,.

  • Comment number 34.

    28 - 15 to England!

  • Comment number 35.

    I don't think anybody can have a go at the appointment of Hodgson until he has proven he is rubbish, or congratulate him when he has been successful.

    Only time will tell, but the main issue over the last 16 years has been the performance or lack of performance of the so called top class players who are so highly regarded in the club game. In the past Managers have kept faith with these names instead of dropping them and giving others an opportunity. Sven had a go but then got stuck in the rut.

    Players such as Cole, Lampard, Terry and Rooney have failed to shine on the international stage but have glittered in the highest of the club competitions - why? How come they look good in the Champions League but cannot reproduce for Queen & Country. Lampard you could argue has been for many years played with Gerrard and they are two much the same, but the others are usually played in their natural positions?

    Unfortunately for Hodgson he has been dropped in at the deep end by the FA, and is being treated as a national joke, although it does not help when he chose the idiot Neville to be his coach, a man he described as having great tactical nouse. For any of those who know anything about football and have seen his in depth analysis on MNF will probably have started rolling around laughing. Top that with the Ferdinand situation (how little has he played this year - why should he be picked?) no wonder the press are on attack mode.

  • Comment number 36.

    @29 - Brendan Rodgers or Ian Holloway? They have taken average players and turned them into decent football players.

  • Comment number 37.

    dive like young @11
    I wonder what the weather was like on that evening in 1966 when England won the forst, the last, and the only trophy?
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I'll tell you what it was like, it was warm but it could of been snowing for all we cared at the time.

    I went to a couple of the early round games [dad had the book of tickets] but I watched the final on the box. Watching the match itself, it was unlike any other I'd watched before, it was so tense, club football does not compare when a whole nation is united and willing it's national side on. I went outside at half time to see what was going on, the street was empty and you could hear a pin drop, it was that quiet on a normally busy street.

    The final whistle, was like being given the kiss of life, all I felt was drained.

    That Saturday afternoon is as clear today as it was back then, i actually believe it mattered more back then. Afterall we had a manager that seemed like Roy is today [old school] but with a difference, he had stated that we would win the World Cup two years before. No maybe's, just WE WOULD WIN.

    After the final whistle went and they interviewed Sir Alf [he was the only calm man in England] all I felt was relief that it was all over.

  • Comment number 38.

    Overwhelming favourites or doomed to defeat, either way I'll be passionately cheering on my country. Come on England!!!

  • Comment number 39.

    why do these journalist place so much stock in their own coverage?

    who honestly cares what they write and say about this match before, during or after it?

    if england by some miracle win the thing then the pictures of it will sell papers. aside from that nobody really cares what they print or say do they?

  • Comment number 40.

    The ignorance of Brits abroad never ceases to amuse me. One of you on here actually compares Donetz with "places like Middlesborough, Burnley, Blackburn and the like"...HA! HA! HA...!!! YOU WISH...!!!

    Take a look at and see what a magnificent city Donetz really is - and THEN try to talk about miserable places like Middlesborough or Blackburn in the pouring rain...!!! HA! HA! HA!...!!!

  • Comment number 41.

    40: Bit like the ignorance of not knowing how to spell the names of towns.

 

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