ROY HODGSON is adamant that if England keeping peppering the centre of international football’s dartboard, they will eventually hit the bullseye of a major tournament win.
While the Football Association drew an impressive response for its invitation to the launch of its 150th anniversary celebrations, it was impossible to stray too far from the area of its work on which it is judged over all others.
For all the community work, vast investment in the grassroots game and development of both Wembley Stadium and St George’s Park, it is the England team with which the FA is synonymous.
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So, in addition to the backslapping of a century and a half that has shaped the entire game, 2013 will also deliver a judgement on Hodgson’s management.
By the end, he will either be preparing to launch a World Cup assault, or licking his wounds and, quite probably, counting the cash from his pay-off having failed to secure a place at Brazil 2014.
No-one has suffered that ignominy since Graham Taylor’s inability to book a trip to USA ’94.
Even then there is no guarantee of success, with four quarter-finals and a semi the best the Three Lions have achieved since Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy and 11 England heroes went dancing round Wembley in 1966.
The European Championships have been no more productive, with Hodgson’s own team also falling at the last-eight stage to Italy last summer.
Yet he is convinced such disappointments should eventually gain their reward.
“There’s always hope,” he said. “Hope springs eternal.
“What you have to do to win tournaments is make sure you are regularly among the ones who have a possibility of winning.
“Compare it to someone who is an amateur dart player.
“The more darts he throws in and around the centre, one day he will get it in the bullseye. If he’s spreading them around the board his chances will be less.
“Of course, the first thing we have to do is qualify. Then it will be important to give a very good account of ourselves, because once you are there you have a chance of winning it”
The magic formula proved elusive for some of the men Hodgson sat alongside in the Connaught Rooms yesterday.
Between them, Fabio Capello, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Terry Venables presided over five major tournament campaigns and got no nearer a final than the penalty shootout misery to Germany at Euro ’96.
Yet Hodgson believes, together with two more former England bosses, Kevin Keegan and Glenn Hoddle – who were not present – they could form a brains trust that would be very useful.
“If ever that was a possibility I would love it,” he said. “Get the group of us together in a room to compare notes and ideas and hear about their experiences.
“It won’t happen because they’re all in jobs or doing different things, so you meet on occasions like this where you are just limited to the odd word.”