Perhaps Hodgson's England possess the most important quality of all...
By Kristian Balkin
Sunday 03 Jun 2012 08:49:00
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It was an arid affair – in fact, both of Hodgson’s England escapades have been so far – but as the old football proverb goes, a result is a result. Belgium, quite clearly, do not provide the most troubling conundrum to an England side that is seemingly ever-dwindling in size, but a job needed to be done and the requirement was suitably, if not perfectly, fulfilled.

Everybody, justifiably, expects and expected more from England. We remain hopeful that a touch of class and a dash of panache can be injected into the way the team plays but the realisation must have, by now, hit, that the Three Lions setup heading into Euro 2012 will be one founded in stability rather than creativity and rigidity rather than fluidity.

Off the back of that, Hodgson will receive the usual diatribe, formed mainly around the argument that England, as the creators of football, should display a brand of it that is something quite exquisite. This is, of course, given the meek resources that the former Liverpool manager has to work with, a task that he will not even come close to completing.

Here, against a Belgium side that, despite the vast array of individual talent available to them, struggled to even startle England into anything like submission, a cosmic lack of something resembling forcefulness came from the home side. Hodgson knew above all else, though, that the job was done and he will bring a 100% record into the European Championships that has been so hastily written off as a tournament in which we will be but mere bystanders.

You had to wonder, at times on the night, however, how much of a more potent outfit England could be were a player of Moussa Dembele’s ilk a part of the contingent. The midfielder, so astute with his passing game and so classy in his close control, is a playmaker that Hodgson can only dream of inheriting. And that is ultimately where the problem lies for the current England manager, and why the vicious circle of lack of talent and lack of decent football will continue to irritate him throughout his tenure.

It is that while we all believe that Wembley should be the home of all things elaborate, there is not the talent to do it. Hodgson is not a man, despite the way he is so widely perceived, that enjoys playing insipid football but he knows that, with what he has at his disposal, it’s the most adequate way of gaining reputable results. And what would we rather have – results or performance?

It’s a question that gets so regularly regurgitated around football but as some of the best managers around would say, the answer is in the numbers. Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United side is so infamous for the way in which they grind out nasty victories that, many would have you believe, proves to be the distinct hallmark of a champion side. Quite clearly, this is no champion side, but Hodgson’s ideologies seem the most capable of creating something that bares at least a passing resemblance to a tuned outfit.

And tuned they will be. While pazzazz has been quite willfully neglected by Hodgson, a quite clear emphasis on defensive organisation and work off the ball has made his side a difficult one to break down and outclass. Even as Belgium started to find some significant holes towards the end of this tie, the dogged Joleon Lescott and the immeasurable talent of Ashley Cole threw their bodies on the line to defend a slender lead.

What it showed, then, was that victory can be manufactured out of a laboured, purposeful display that is bereft of promising and pleasing football. It was something similarly portrayed by Fabio Capello against a certain Spanish side and, despite the magnitude of what the Italian had just done, the perspective taken of England that night was similar to the one many are taking now.

It's one of discontent over what they're witnessing but, perhaps, people should just be grateful that we can generate wins without too much hassle at all. It has, in the past at least, proved to be something far too complicated for an England manager.

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