KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Roy Hodgson’s future as manager of England rests on 90 or 120 minutes against Iceland on Monday.
The Promenade des Anglais in Nice will be a one-way street out of the job of national coach if the national team cannot even Remain in the European Championship.
Iceland are the sort of minnows whom Michel Platini had in mind when he pushed through his expansion of the competition to 24 teams for both political and financial reasons. But the second round is far enough for their adventure as far as Hodgson, captain Wayne Rooney and the rest of the squad are concerned.
Pressure on Hodgson was ramped up by his controversial six changes for the concluding Group B game against Slovakia which brought the disappointment of a goalless draw which meant second place in the table and a slot into the toughest half of the tournament.
Greg Dyke, the chairman of the Football Association, and chief executive Martin Glenn have made it clear that Hodgson was expected to take England – at least – to the quarter-finals. This is the minimum requirement even if England need to win a penalty shootout, for once, to progress that far.
Dyke has offered Hodgson unequivocal support ahead of the Iceland game, saying: “Roy is doing a great job, we’re very supportive of him and I personally have always been very supportive of him. I think he’s a really good bloke and I believe we will go on and do really well in this tournament and he will get a new contract.”
Change of guard
Later this summer Dyke will step down as FA chairman at the end of his three-year term of office so the decision on Hodgson will rest with Glenn and technical director Dan Ashworth. But even Dyke’s positive comment revealed the need for England to go further at Euro 2016.
Hodgson will put his faith back in the line-up who began the tournament against Russia with the possible exception of Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge starting on the left of attack instead of the out-of-touch Raheem Sterling though the latter, apparently, has been impressing in training.
England, after all, did play some of the most cohesive football of any team at the finals in the first half against Russia. The snag was that the essential goals did not follow.
Hodgson believes that his players are ready for a goals explosion. After the Slovakia game he said: “It’s very disappointing that once again we had all the play and a lot of opportunities and not been able to score once. But it will come because we have players who can score goals.
“The time will come when we will take those chances and some team will be on the end of that fairly soon . . . Now we have to make sure that we don’t just control the game for long periods but score goals as well.”
Hodgson took over England just before the 2012 finals when England reached the second round before losing on penalties to Italy. He would certainly have been sacked after the World Cup flop when England were eliminated after the first two games. He was saved then by the basic fact that there were no other English candidates for the job.
When England take the field against Iceland this safety net will no longer exist.
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