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Experience is the key for Hodgson in Kiev
10:28am Tuesday 10th September 2013 in Sport
ROY HODGSON will rely on the unique advantage of having three England centurions on the field at the same time to preserve his World Cup dream.
In confirming Frank Lampard will win his 100th cap in this evening’s crucial qualifier with Ukraine and that the only change to his starting line-up will be Danny Welbeck’s replacement on the left-hand side of England’s attack, Hodgson underlined he will be calling on a level of experience unmatched in Three Lions history.
Lampard will become the eighth member of England’s 100-cap club.
Never before will three of them have been on the pitch at the same time.
But with Steven Gerrard as captain and Ashley Cole performing the same left-back duties he has carried out for well over a decade, Hodgson knows he need have no concerns about his side’s ability to handle the pressure they are under.
“To be a year and a bit into the job and have those types of people, who have such terrific experience of playing for England and have experienced the highs and the lows of that has been a godsend,”
“They are such reliable consistent players and a great example to the younger players.” All three are Champions League winners. All three have won major domestic prizes.
And while Gerrard may not have the Premier League title he longed for, his place at the top end of a list of all-time great England midfielders is well established.
Yet, at a combined age of 100, the trio are still doing the hard yards, attempting to reach one more World Cup finals to try to prove England are a decent side.
“Those players give a lie to the fact that the England team doesn’t matter to players, that the Champions League has taken over and players are only interested in getting a bigger contract and earning more money.
“Those three have done it at the very top.
“They are all CL winners and have goodness knows how many European games behind them.
“They don’t need an extra England cap, yet I know there will be no prouder, willing players than those three.”
Although, as he pointed out, Hodgson does have options to replace Welbeck – Ashley Young would certainly offer a direct attacking threat and uncapped Tottenham man Andros Townsend offers the vitality of youth – James Milner would be the practical choice, as his defensive discipline could be crucial.
Should England repeat their Euro 2012 victory over the same opponents in Donetsk, they will move four points clear of Ukraine and three ahead of Montenegro with a far better goal difference – the first determining factor in the event of a tie – with just two home games remaining.
A draw would keep England noses at the head of Group H and ensure they remain in charge of their own destiny, albeit setting up a nervy final double-header against Montenegro and Ukraine in October.
However, defeat would be a disaster, allowing Ukraine to open up a two point buffer, with one of their final two games a less than taxing trip to San Marino.
For Hodgson, so proud to be chosen to replace Fabio Capello ahead of popular choice Harry Redknapp, it is a career defining period.
And he could be forgiven for feeling a bit hot under the collar.
“Of course there is pressure,”
he said. “We are getting closer to the situation where we are either going to achieve our goals and qualify for the World Cup or we are going to fail.
“You cannot get away from that.’’
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