Hodgson's England full of youthful promise
09 September 2014, 09:47
London - In seeking the desired balance between youth and experience that all coaches aim at, England's Roy Hodgson is veering towards the junior end of the scale.
Of the squad on duty in the 2-0 win away to Switzerland in their opening Euro 2016 qualifier on Monday, half a dozen were less than one-third the age of the 67-year-old manager.
Given the negativity surrounding England after two successive World Cup failures, it is a useful ploy as long as results do not deteriorate further.
Hodgson and his staff can put mistakes down to youthful inexperience and imply the future will be brighter.
The evidence from Monday's victory was that after a dismal period for the national team there may be better times ahead.
A favourable Group E, from which they should clearly qualify ahead of opposition like Estonia, Slovenia, Lithuania and San Marino - as well as the Swiss - offers abundant opportunities for further improvement.
Most promisingly, however, is the near certainty that the best is yet to come from talents such as Liverpool's 19-year-old Raheem Sterling, Everton defender John Stones, 20, and Arsenal's new striker Danny Welbeck, 23.
There was an encouraging full debut too from Aston Villa's Fabian Delph, a late starter at 24, once he had calmed down after collecting an early yellow card.
Significantly, Sterling and Welbeck fashioned the first goal between them in a classic counter-attack also featuring new captain Wayne Rooney, at 28 now a senior figure in the squad.
Welbeck, accused of not scoring enough goals for Manchester United before his transfer to Arsenal, was calmness personified in slotting home the second.
Sterling showed he can play in the floating role behind the main strikers as well as out wide, his pace just as valuable a weapon in either position.
Signed by Liverpool aged 15, he has been carefully brought through by their manager Brendan Rodgers, who praised his "tactical awareness" after a man-of-the-match performance in the club's most recent Premier League game, a 3-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur.
Ahead of the Switzerland match Rooney said of the teenager: "He is a fantastic player. You saw that last season and with the start to this season.
"He's quite an unusual player. He can play right across the front line (or) out wide.
"Although he's a small lad, he's really strong as well.
Also read: Sterling can be England's Overmars - Rooney
"He'll be a massive player for us (England) over the next 10 to 15 years."
Neither Hodgson nor the country's football fans are looking that far ahead, but there was a more positive feeling all round on Monday night.
"I've always believed if you're good enough your age doesn't really matter," Hodgson said of his young generation after the game.
"These players despite their tender age do play in one of the most competitive leagues in the world.
"We've had a fantastic generation of players but we couldn't count on them forever."