Kane and Alli lead Eng­land into new era

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - TOTAL FOOTBALL - Ja­son Burt CHIEF FOOTBALL COR­RE­SPON­DENT in Ber­lin

As Roy Hodg­son stood deep inside the Olympic Sta­dium on Satur­day evening, bur­nished by the glow of an as­ton­ish­ing vic­tory over world cham­pi­ons Ger­many, he spoke about be­ing on track.

The Eng­land man­ager was, quite lit­er­ally, cor­rect; stand­ing on the athletics warm-up track that runs along the back of the cav­ernous press con­fer­ence room.

Hodg­son also spoke about – and railed against – straight lines, the con­ven­tional wis­dom that deems him a con­ser­va­tive, even bor­ing coach who prefers ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers, fixed for­ma­tions and unin­spired tac­tics.

“Un­for­tu­nately, I don’t know when I got it but I was given an ep­i­thet at one stage that will stay with me for the rest of my life,” Hodg­son ex­plained of how he was per­ceived in Eng­land. “I don’t have it in Switzer­land, I don’t have it in Italy [where he has also worked], that I am con­ser­va­tive in some way. It’s not true and I have never felt that way.

“I have worked for one or two teams where we have been nowhere near as good as the op­po­si­tion and we have been on the back foot and have had to work for re­sults. But when­ever I have the team to take con­trol and take the ini­tia­tive, all my teams have done that.”

Eng­land em­phat­i­cally did that in Ber­lin. This felt like the de­fin­i­tive emer­gence of some­thing fresh and bold. There can be no way back now.

There were per­for­mances that were state­ments: from Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy. The vic­tory was not just about the play­ers from the Premier League’s two out­stand­ing teams, Le­ices­ter City and Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur, but they set the tone.

The ques­tion now is: how far will Hodg­son take this? How bold will this self-pro­claimed bold man­ager be? He spoke as if this was all a de­lib­er­ate strat­egy and not just, partly, a prod­uct of in­jury to play­ers, in­clud­ing Wayne Rooney, who will surely have a prob­lem get­ting back in the side.

“I don’t think it is just about the fear­less­ness of youth,” Hodg­son said. “I think in our ap­proach to work­ing with these play­ers, we have also been quite fear­less. We’ve also said, ‘ We are back­ing you on this, this is how we want you to play, this is what we want you to do.’ I am pre­pared – and also my coach­ing staff are pre­pared – that we will take the re­spon­si­bil­ity, if it goes wrong.

“We’re go­ing to be the first ones stand­ing up to say: ‘This is what we told him to do, so don’t have a go at him. This is what we want to do.’ This is the mes­sage we have been putting across for a long pe­riod. “We have also been lucky that some play­ers who have come into the team seem to flour­ish with that con­fi­dence and free­dom be­ing given to them. That free­dom to make mis­takes. We would still like to play out more from the back than we did. We are try­ing to.

“Our goal­keep­ers have got work to do if they are to be­come as good as the De Geas and Lloris’s of the world. Be­cause the fewer times we have to play the ball long the bet­ter it will be, be­cause we want to use our mid­field play­ers who are play­ers who can re­ally run the game.”

It sounded ex­cit­ing and re­fresh­ing, and it is. No one should get car­ried away and say Eng­land will win the Euros but there is a gen­uine sense of be­ing on the brink of some­thing – and of sim­ply be­ing able to en­joy the fact that Hodg­son’s ap­proach, with this set of play­ers, is worth pur­su­ing.

This win was the first time in 40 years that Eng­land had over­turned a two-goal deficit (even if Ger­many would have been three ahead had Mario Gómez’s ef­fort not been wrongly ruled out for off­side). The last time they man­aged the feat was at a friendly tour­na­ment in New York in 1976 when Eng­land came back to beat Italy.

A cer­tain Fabio Capello was in the Italy team, while Hodg­son, his suc­ces­sor as Eng­land man­ager, em­barked on his man­age­rial ca­reer in the same year, when he took over the Swedish club Halm­stads, with whom he won two league ti­tles.

The 68-year-old ranks it as his “wa­ter into wine” man­age­rial feat, per­haps the best of a ca­reer that has taken him across Scan­di­navia, to Italy and to coach­ing the na­tional teams of Fin­land and Switzer­land.

The best may be to come – as Hodg­son him­self of­ten says – and maybe it will be wa­ter into cham­pagne with this emerg­ing Eng­land team, for whom Kane and the re­mark­able Alli ap­pear not only the two most im­por­tant play­ers but nascent lead­ers. “We thought he was ex­cel­lent and he is get­ting a lot of praise, and I hope he en­joys it be­cause it is truly de­served,” Hodg­son said of Alli, who drew a huge amount of pos­i­tive com­ment, not least from the World Cup­win­ning cap­tain who was part of the ITV Sport pun­ditry team. “The TV peo­ple told me Lothar Matthäus said he was the best player on the pitch. That’s some praise in­deed,” Hodg­son said.

There are prob­lems. Eng­land’s de­fence is a con­cern. Danny Rose did well on de­but but Nathaniel Clyne looked lim­ited while, al­though Gary Cahill cap­tained the side, he was vul­ner­a­ble. Ques­tion marks hang over Jor­dan Hen­der­son and, pos­si­bly, Adam Lal­lana.

Af­ter Eng­land fell be­hind to Toni Kroos’s fierce strike, a goal aided by Jack But­land’s in­jury, it seemed game over when Gómez ex­posed Cahill’s fragility to head home.

Not at all. Kane quickly scored with a su­perb low shot, af­ter a bril­liant Cruyff turn (how apt) be­fore sub­sti­tute Vardy struck from close range with an equally deft touch. Dier then headed the win­ner in in­jury time.

What was re­mark­able was that Eng­land kept go­ing. They did not set­tle for a draw; they were far from con­ser­va­tive. OK, Ger­many played the sec­ond half with a de­fence that had only 20 caps but it was not a vic­tory to be churl­ish about; they are the world cham­pi­ons and were lead­ing 2-0.

“You can only win se­ri­ously if you can take the game to the op­po­si­tion,” Hodg­son said. “It is very hard to win if you are on the back foot all the time and try to nick a goal.”

The mantra is out there. Eng­land are on the front foot; on track. Now let us see how far they can go.

Fear­less: Dele Alli (right) takes on Ger­many’s An­to­nio Rüdi­ger as Eng­land’s young­sters come of age with their finest win un­der Roy Hodg­son (be­low, left)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.