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Hodgson enjoys calm after storm

18 November 2012-PA Sport

Roy Hodgson is delighted a sense of calm has been restored after the maelstrom that engulfed his first few months as England manager.

Around every game since he was installed as Fabio Capello's successor in May, there has been a side issue to be dealt with, all of which centred around John Terry and that infamous day at Loftus Road in October last year.

From selecting Terry for EURO 2012 and leaving Rio Ferdinand out, through the Chelsea skipper's blast at the Football Association for its handling of his racism case and subsequent abandonment of the national cause, to retiring his one-time defensive partner on the Jubilee Line.

The whole sorry saga has clouded what has been a decent start to Hodgson's tenure.

Finally, it appears, the time to move on has come.

"I have moved on from it. The team have moved on from it," he said.

"We can never dictate what is being done on the outside. All we can do is control our own environment and already we think we have some pretty interesting alternatives.

"Phil (Jagielka) and Joleon (Lescott) have done well. (Gary) Cahill and (Steven) Caulker did well against Sweden and I am also looking for (Chris) Smalling and (Phil) Jones.

"That is what I have to do. I have to hope that amongst that group of players - and maybe someone else will come on the scene and force his way in - I can find a couple of players who can do the job in the way John and Rio were when they were playing a few years ago."

Form considerations over Joe Hart aside, central defence does look like the area of most weakness for England at present. It was certainly exposed late on in the midweek 4-2 friendly defeat to Sweden.

Certainly there is far more of Hodgson's authoritative stamp on the sides he has been turning out this autumn compared to the hastily-cobbled together group he took to EURO 2012.

It is hard, for example, to imagine Jordan Henderson operating as first choice back-up in midfield as he was in Poland and Ukraine.

Even without calling upon Gareth Barry, and with doubts over the future of Frank Lampard, Hodgson has benefited from the effectiveness of Tom Cleverley and Leon Osman in that role, not mentioning Steven Gerrard and Jack Wilshere.

"I would like to think it is my team," he said.

"The players are very much committed to what we are trying to do. We have seen that in all the games so far, irrespective of results.

"I can only hope I will get enough contact with them because to really get a team playing the type of assured football we want they need the coaching, video and talking time."

As is the lot of an international manager, Hodgson must now cross his fingers that key players avoid serious injury and get through to the 6 February friendly with Brazil, and more importantly, the key 2014 FIFA World Cup double-header against San Marino and Montenegro in March unscathed.

It is an impossible dream of course.

But of all the players he would want to stay away from the treatment table, Hodgson would probably choose Wilshere, who is taking the first tentative steps on his comeback trail after 17 months out.

For, with skipper Gerrard possibly in the most consistent form of his entire international career, the prospect of that pair combining is a mouthwatering one.

"We all know what Steven has been doing, continues to do and hopefully will continue to do," said Hodgson.

"His performance against Sweden was quite outstanding.

"We have not had chance to think about Jack because for the last 17 months he has not been available.

"It is great to see him back now and by the time February comes around, hopefully he will be playing on a regular basis for Arsenal, getting his match fitness and other faculties back to the highest level and honing them up."

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