Gerrard crucial to England's World Cup - Glenn Hoddle
The former England Manager and Spurs legend Glenn Hoddle writes an exclusive blog for williamhill.com while he is in Brazil as part of the star-studded ITV team for the World Cup.
My williamhill.com blog kicks off today.
I’m here in Miami with the ITV World Cup TV team having travelled out this week on a British Airways flight with Wrighty - who keeps calling me ‘Gaffer”, by the way - Lee Dixon and Gordon Strachan.
After commentating on the 2-2 draw with Ecuador, having had a chat with Roy Hodgson on the pitch beforehand, the World Cup is now getting ever so closer, and there is a tingling feeling of anticipation even in an old pro like myself!
I will let you into some of my thoughts, and some of the things you might not know about, and that might surprise you. For instance, I read about Leighton Baines bringing his guitar with him as England left for Miami, en route to Rio.
Music plays a big part in players lives, it did so in my day, and does so even more now.
Jack Wilshere's got money on his mind, Rickie Lambert's counting stars, Chris Smalling wants to turn back time and James Milner thinks he could be the one. Skipper Steven Gerrard went with Avicii's crossover crowd-pleaser Wake Me Up.
I will drop one or two little facts about myself into my williamhill.com blogs on the World Cup.
Here’s one: I’ve had five Top 10s in the charts! I’ll leave that one with you, answer to follow tomorrow...
On the football front, I will let you into some of the dressing room secrets, how a World Cup manager like Roy will be feeling on crucial issues inside the camp, based on my experiences as the last English manager of the national team to lead the country into the World Cup Finals as I did in France ‘98.
I know how excited, worried, thrilled, nervous and itching to get cracking Roy will be right now.
For example, Roy must have winced when his captain Steven Gerrard was hurt in an early tackle during the Peru game at Wembley, in the final warm up game on home soil before heading off to Miami.
Personally, I wouldn’t have risked him for longer than a half, and in fact, wouldn’t have even started with him. He needs to be wrapped up in cotton wool and protected like a National Treasure.
Look at the major worry now circulating around Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It’s horrible for the player, horrible for the manager.
Now you can see why Roy didn’t play Gerrard against Ecuador, such is his importance, especially because of the role he will perform in Brazil - an injury to the skipper would spell disaster for Roy’s plans.
There is no way Roy can risk not having his skipper leading out his team against Italy in the opener, so he carefully needs to manage his game time leading up to that crunch match in Manaus.
Gerrard is as important to England as Andrea Pirlo is to Italy; both vastly experienced, and hugely influential in midfield, where the games will be won or lost.
He’s playing much deeper these days and is hugely effective from that position even though he might not be able to tear forward as he on.
The worry for Roy and England going into this tournament is that there is no natural understudy to Gerrard. There is adequate back up in every position - but in this case, it would simply not be the same.
Frank Lampard is the nearest, but nowhere near as effective in his long range of passing as Gerrard, nor as robust.
Roy will want to make contingency plans in case Gerrard is injured or suspended during the World Cup, that’s why Lampard gained vital sharpening up time in Miami when he captained the team against Ecuador just in case he is needed.
The manager also needs to give some game time to Joe Hart’s understudies. Ben Foster had no chance with both Ecuador goals, but maybe a world class keeper would have got closer. If Joe Hart can pull off some wonder saves it will increase England’s chances no end.
There were also one or two Roy needed to take a look at, and one or two he wanted to give a test to before he settles on his final line up against Italy for the World Cup opener. I am sure Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were vying for a place. Now he has one injured and one red carded.
England named their 1-11, handing out those shirts, and everyone immediately assumed that will be his starting line up, but don’t be fooled. It is no guide to selection, believe me.
Wilshere has been handed one of those seemingly ‘you're picked’ shirts – the No7 - but he has a long way to go to convince Roy he is back to full fitness, especially with Adam Lallana bang in form.
Roy will be tempted to give Luke Straw an extended run out as there is some worry over Leighton Baines’ calf strain. Shaw did well against Ecuador just to give him a feel for the team and the big match pressures.
Baines is first choice, but I have always advocated Shaw’s inclusion as it is of paramount importance to give as many youngsters as possible tournament experience to give England a big chance of going for a trophy in the Euros.
Roy will now have an eye on Saturday’s game against Honduras to bed in his team, with one half you will see the final selection against Italy, in terms of his personnel, his tactics and the shape of the team.
I read Italian manager Cesare Prandelli opted out of going to Wembley last Friday even though he was in London. It was interpreted as a snub in the media, but Prandelli knew it was pointless turning up to watch a ‘shadow’ England team against Peru.
He will have a far better idea when England kick off against Honduras…