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Good Luck Roy

So for the second time this season the subject of my penmanship is a Mr. Roy Hodgson. First time round, I was encouraging a warm reception as he brought West Brom to The Cottage back on the 1st February. Now, it’s to proclaim support for his nomination to the post of England manager.

I was an englandfan, in fact, technically I still am. No, not just a supporter of my country, I will always be that, but an actual paid up member of englandfans, the official supporters group for the national team which provides access to tickets and so on.

Over the years, I have greatly enjoyed supporting England. My second ever game of football was England v Saudi Arabia at the old Wembley Stadium. I was at Steven Gerrard’s England debut against the Ukraine, saw Danny Murphy score in a friendly against Paraguay at Anfield and was there when David Beckham scored ‘that’ free kick against Greece. I even did work experience at the FA’s Soho Square headquarters during the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. This was a time when supporting England meant the world to me.

Even as my support for the national team was becoming less fervent, I still wanted to go to games. I skipped the Wally with a Brolly game against Croatia, but was there when we exacted revenge to the tune of five goals two years later. I have sat in all three tiers at the new Wembley Stadium and have seen England win, lose and draw.

More and more though, over the last few years, I have become less and less captivated by the goings on of the national team. Perhaps it was the poor performance at the last World Cup or non-presence at the previous European Championship, perhaps it was a feeling of alienation from a fan-base who salute Wayne Rooney incessantly, despite his occasional moments of callous thuggery, perhaps it is ITV’s foolhardy television coverage or perhaps it is simply that my feelings for Fulham have simply led me to conclude there is a definite winner in the club versus country debate.

To be honest, if it were not the prospect of seeing Bobby Zamora in an England shirt, my interest in the national team would have been restricted to watching the squad announcements with disappointment and waiting for the inevitable penalty shootout loss come summer.

I get the feeling that my outlook on England might not be unique, especially from fans of clubs who don’t contribute the bulk of the playing squad. Now, however, after Sven, Steve McLaren, and Fabio Capello, there is a manager who I want to root for.

The position of England manager is one of the most talked about in the land. It is the position that carries the greatest weight of expectation. London has a mayoral election on Thursday, but one suspects that the new England boss will face a greater pressure to succeed. [Chancellor of the Exchequer] George Osborne is probably delighted there’s been an appointment; the vast majority of us understand the repercussions of a 2-0 defeat to Belgium more than a 0.2% contraction of the economy.

The England manager is the ambassador of English football to the world. For this, there is no man on the planet better suited that Roy Hodgson. Football management was his chosen career path, but one suspects that international diplomacy ran a close second.

Had England had a better relationship with world football, we might not have been pick-pocketed of the right to host the 2018 World Cup. Prince William, David Cameron and David Beckham stood up on the stage in Zurich for the decision, all three hold nothing like the reputation and esteem that Roy, as a 16 year veteran of UEFA and FIFA Technical Study Groups, is regarded with in the echelons of footballing power in Switzerland.

As a coach, there are few better. Harry Redknapp is not one of them. Jobs such as transforming Finland, a country where football falls somewhere between ski jumping and biathlon in popularity, into a nation within one match of tournament qualification, often go overlooked when checking his curriculum vitae.

People seem to have labeled Roy as someone who can’t cope with egos or star players. Quite frankly this tag is nothing short of ridiculous. You try working with [Inter Milan owner] Massimo Moratti.

There are a list of reasons as to why Roy is right for the England job, most of which will be paraded at length in the popular press over the next day or two. His knowledge and qualifications are certainly among them. Gaining experience outside of English football is not a crime; whatever certain commentators would have you believe. It will also be nice to actually have an England manager who knows the difference between international and club management.

It is fitting perhaps that his first game in charge will be a friendly against his former skipper, Brede Hangeland’s, Norway at the end of the month in Oslo.

The job will bring scrutiny and pressure, whilst a four-year contract represents hopefully, the FA putting their faith in Roy for the long term. If England are to fail at Euro 2012, lets not all call for his head and bemoan Harry’s non-appointment. For now, my interest in England has been rekindled.

So my message is this; good luck Roy. I’m behind you and I’m sure a lot of others are too.

England’s Number One

Well nearly… Congratulations to David Stockdale on a well-deserved call-up to Fabio Capello’s England squad for the friendly against Denmark this week. Stockdale has seriously impressed during his two periods between the sticks this season whilst Mark Schwarzer has been otherwise occupied with his own international career, and he was tipped for a place with the national squad last September but an injury sustained at Blackpool put paid to that. It’s good to see that a further chance to impress has done exactly that.

Good luck David!

No call-up for Zamora and Stockdale

As was feared, last night two familiar names were left off the England squad sheets for the forthcoming European qualifiers. Dan reported over the weekend, it was likely that the injuries sustained by Bobby Zamora, called up earlier this month for the friendly against Hungary, and David Stockdale at Blackpool on Saturday would force Capello to name alternatives. And indeed he did.

Patrick Barclay, in his column in The Times today (behind the paywall I’m afraid), suggests that Bobby’s injury is a big blow to the England squad and praises his recent form;

The Fulham centre forward has been in such consistently marvellous form for so long that it hardly seemed to matter that he was 29. To me, Zamora looked the key to an invigorated England, one that might start to rebuild confidence damaged by a dismal World Cup with vibrant performances in the opening qualifying matches for the European Championship against Bulgaria at Wembley on Friday and Switzerland in Basle tomorrow week.

Bobby’s been quite unlucky with injuries holding him back from making a real impact internationally, first the Achilles injury reportedly preventing him from joining the squad in South Africa over the summer, and now a thigh strain, but hopefully he’ll get the chance to pull on the white shirt again and show how far he’s come. It certainly doesn’t sound too serious an injury and there’s no indication that he’ll not be able to join his Fulham colleagues when Craven Cottage hosts Wolverhampton Wanderers in two weeks’ time. At least the international break affords Zamora an extra week to overcome this setback.

The news for Stockdale doesn’t sound quite so good with The Guardian reporting that he could be out for two months after damaging his ankle ligaments on Saturday;

Ankle ligament damage has already denied Stockdale his first involvement with the national side – the Fulham goalkeeper fears he could be absent for up to two months having only just broken into the first team at Craven Cottage – and allowed Carson a return to the fold.

So not only does he miss out on his first cap, but Stockdale misses the opportunity to continue proving himself worthy of a regular first team spot. Stockdale shouldn’t be too concerned about his international debut – he’s still young and Capello has few goalkeeping options, so a future call-up could well be a reality. The question is whether he’ll continue to be a regular on the pitch, rather than on the bench, once he recovers from his injury. With rumours about Shay Given coming to the Cottage on loan, in order to allow Schwarzer his longed-for move across London, and Mark Hughes having already set about managing Stockdale’s expectations, the likelihood seems quite remote.

For now, the England squad is without its “lucky” Fulham contingent but it says a lot that the media is even considering our players for international recognition, not least that perhaps the domination of the Big Four may well be nearing its end. Long may it continue.