The future must start now for Hodgson's England
Euro 2012: Krakow
Roy Hodgson will have used England's flight home from their Euro 2012 base in Krakow to take a breath for almost the first time since his appointment as manager.
Hodgson had 40 days and 40 nights to prepare England for action in Poland and Ukraine while also fulfilling the final formalities of his duties as head coach of West Bromwich Albion.
Parachuted in as Fabio Capello's successor last month, the 64-year-old was thrown into a whirlwind of activity that soon acquainted him with a feeling familiar to his predecessors - the pain of defeat on penalties in a major tournament.
Hodgson, to his credit, made no attempt to hide behind any perceived misfortune. He accepted Italy's obvious superiority in a game that was goalless over 120 minutes and agreed it would have been England's lucky day had they emerged with the prize of a semi-final against Germany in Warsaw.
It was not to be, but Hodgson's parting words were in keeping with the dignified manner in which he has conducted himself in Poland and the way in which England's players have become popular tourists here.
Roy Hodgson has seen Steven Gerrard blossom in the role of captain. Photo: Getty
England's squad embraced the history with a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp and enjoyed the bustle and scenic surroundings of Krakow. In turn, Krakow enjoyed them.
Local Polish third division side Hutnik will also feel the benefit of their stay thanks to a state-of-the-art 100,000 Euros playing surface laid down by the Football Association at the venue used as England's training base.
And as Hodgson assembled his thoughts and took stock of the past and future on the plane into Luton, he and the FA can reflect on a Euro 2012 that was an unqualified success off the field and a qualified one on it.
The new manager used his limited time to shape England and work in a way that ensured a united dressing room - but this was not a shield against the technical superiority and tactical flexibility of the Italians in Kiev on Sunday.
Hodgson may have had a free hit at Euro 2012 given time restrictions on his planning but he and his team emerged with credit and credibility after topping their group. And the honest, resilient approach aided and abetted by the inspiration of the older guard such as captain Steven Gerrard and John Terry earned them the respect of most observers.
England's manager has been a past member of Uefa's technical study group. So what would he file in his report on his own team's efforts at Euro 2012? The reply is an honest one.
"I would have flagged up that the team was very hard working, very disciplined and that they defended well ," said Hodgson. "Then I probably would have flagged up, like all of you have flagged up, that we were a bit wasteful in our counter-attacking positions. When we had the chance to move it out and do something with the ball we didn't always take that opportunity.
"Especially against Italy, we gave the ball away far too often for our own good in areas where we didn't expect to."
He added: "I don't think we've done badly in the tournament. I think we can take some credit from the fact that we topped our group. We held Italy to a 0-0 draw after extra time but we didn't do enough to cause them problems. We would have had to have been lucky to have won the game in 120 minutes."
Hodgson also pointed out that the situation might have been slightly different if injuries had not denied him several talented players, particularly in midfield.
"We haven't made excuses in this tournament and I'm not going to start making excuses now but there were quite a few players left at home who were quality footballers and very good technical footballers who may have actually helped us out had they been here," said the England boss.
"If Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard had been available on Sunday it may have given me a bit more of a chance to help out some of the others. There are players like Jack Wilshere in central midfield who were not available to us. There are a lot of players around who, had they been available, might have improved the technical level of our performance."
Having dealt with the issues of the immediate past, Hodgson has been around long enough to know scrutiny and focus will soon switch to the future, starting with a friendly against Sunday's victors Italy in Berne on 15 August.
And that spotlight is sure to be fixed on whether Hodgson will adopt a more progressive style than the one utilised, understandably given the short preparation period, at Euro 2012 and whether he will introduce new faces.
Tottenham full-back Kyle Walker would have been a contender to play here had he been fit while Hodgson will fervently hope Arsenal midfielder Wilshere can put a year of injuries behind him to decorate England's midfield with some of the creativity missing against Italy.
Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will also be looking to increase his impact and Hodgson prepared the ground for an experimental England line-up in Switzerland.
He said: "I'm trying to be as honest as I can and the first thing I've got to do is evaluate some of these other players, some of these players who have not been here, players I have not lived with for the past five weeks.
"With regard to the 15 August friendly with Italy I think we will definitely see some revolution there because I think that game is going to be an ideal opportunity for me to look at some players who weren't with us here and maybe feel they should have been - or feel that they can add to the quality of our team. It will be an ideal opportunity for me to look at them. After that we come to the September World Cup qualifiers and I have to mix the two together."
But Hodgson has seen qualities he wishes to carry forward, qualities acknowledged by most who have witnessed England's games in Ukraine at close quarters.
"I think we have got to retain two elements. which we all seem to be in agreement on, that this tournament has given us," said Hodgson.
"We have got to retain our defensive discipline, organisation and team work and we have got to make certain we retain the desire to be part of an England team, to really go the extra mile to be able to wear the shirt. They're the two things that we have got to try and keep at all costs.
"Now the next question is can we improve the quality within our team? That is something we have got to work at, look very carefully at, and I'm rather hoping a few players will knock so hard on my door and prove to be the right ones."
Hodgson arrived home to perhaps allow himself his first period of relaxation in months - but the task of marrying England's past to England's future will soon be high on his agenda after the disappointment of Euro 2012 fades.