England went crashing out of the World Cup this week after failing to win either of their opening group matches, against Italy and Uruguay, respectively.
As is usual when England exit the competition, many people are looking for a scapegoat. And this year the quest for a scapegoat has led to calls for Roy Hodgson to be sacked.
While it might be natural for people to point to the manager when a team has its worst World Cup performance since 1958, the Football Association has decided to back Hodgson, allowing him to keep his job until at least 2016.
England may have failed in the World Cup, but the FA has made the right decision to back Hodgson.
Hodgson was appointed England manager in 2012, following the exit of Fabio Capello. He was not necessarily the right choice at the time, and to this day, there may be better candidates to manage England than Hodgson. However, he was the man the FA chose, and it is in him that it should put its trust, at least for the near future.
The first reason why is that, despite what it may appear, England did not underperform at the World Cup. This is the least experienced England squad in decades, and though there is some raw talent, it would be naive to have expected them to get any further than the group stages this year.
Italy and Uruguay were always going to be difficult to beat, and they have a certain star quality that this year's England squad is lacking. Furthermore, though England have an impressive arsenal of young creative players, there is a severe lack of depth in defence and up front.
Of course, England had a chance of upsetting either of the aforementioned teams in their group—and to be fair, they almost did—but the odds were always going to be against them.
Secondly, this is one of the first World Cups where there have been little to no off-the-field scandals or distractions. No "faith healers," no indiscreet affairs and no Capello Index. Team spirit seemed to be generally good, and the players went into the tournament with a positive outlook (even though such positivity was ultimately misplaced). This is something that not every manager can bring.
Lastly, whether Hodgson is the right man for the job or not, he is the man who has the job. While "because there is no one else" is rarely the best argument to be made for someone, to a certain extent it holds true in this situation. England are clearly a team in transition, and what this young group of players needs right now is stability, and one person who can create a solid foundation for the future.
Whatever you think of Hodgson's tactics, he was right to go for youth (with the exception of leaving out Ashley Cole), and he is laying the groundwork for a better future for England.
In the past, we have seen "great" England squads struggle their way through a couple of rounds of a tournament with subpar performances. This year, we saw some good performances let down by defensive lapses and a disappointing early exit.
While everyone you ask would prefer victory through bad performances to a couple of promising losses, it is at least encouraging to see an England team breaking the stagnant tournament form and 4-4-2 mold that has held it back in the past.
With a few more years under their belts, this group of English players could start to become something special. And while it is too early to say whether potential can transform into real substance, the next few years will be crucial in laying the groundwork for the future. It is a job that is already underway, and one that Hodgson should be left to finish...at least until 2016.
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