Premier League

Hodgson makes England plea

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Sun, 19 May 2013 10:53:00

Paolo Di Canio insists that Sunderland would have been relegated if it wasn't for him.

The Italian took over from Martin O'Neill at the end of March, and he helped turn their fortunes around including their biggest derby win over Newcastle in more than 50 years.

"I have to be honest, yes I think we would have gone down," said the Italian.

"In my opinion this team was down. Some people said I would be too hard and would stress the players but we have recovered mental energy.

"Stephane Sessegnon, one goal in six games. Under me two goals in four games. Improvement.

"Under me, 1.3 points per game instead of one point per game. We would have finished top 10. Improvement.

"Eight points in six games without a striker. With Steven Fletcher, the top scorer injured. [Skipper Lee] Cattermole out for a long time. This is part of the job.

"Only the future can tell if I'm right but I think Paolo Di Canio will be right. I hope we can celebrate one day."

Di Canio also gave his backing to friend and compatriot Roberto Mancini after he was sacked at Manchester City.

"It's not easy when you've got big egos like Carlos Tevez. With Mancini he had a simple difficulty: he had seven top hot-headed footballers. One or two you can handle, but not seven," he said.

"Also players are piranhas. They smell if you are weak. Mancini started something political with the board. The players knew. They saw a fault-line. It was easy for them to say 'now we relax'. If they think you are weak it will change the dynamic."

The Swans will round off arguably the finest season in their 101-year history when they face Fulham at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.

Laudrup's side are guaranteed a top-10 finish in the Premier League and also secured the Capital One Cup, their first major piece of silverware, in February.

The Dane's calm and dignified approach has won him many admirers this season, and even reportedly attracted the interest of the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid.

And defender Williams has spoken of how, far from utilising the 'hairdryer' treatment Sir Alex Fergsuon is well known for, Laudrup's cool demeanour even extends to how he reacts to a poor performance.

"He never loses his temper or raises his voice," said the Wales captain.

"If he feels like that, or he is unhappy with how we play, he just doesn't speak to us.

"He doesn't come in the dressing room, we don't see him so I presume those are the times he would have lost his head. He is very composed.

"In Britain we are used to managers coming in and going nuts.

"Even with Brendan (Rodgers), who was pretty composed, we saw him lose his head a few times, but never with this manager.

"He always tries to be calm and composed when he speaks, he tries to look at the positives and we just don't see him sometimes if we have lost."

It was not all plain sailing for Laudrup as Swansea had an inconsistent start to the season, before a League Cup win over former boss Rodgers at Anfield acted as the catalyst for an excellent run of results, culminating in victory over Bradford at Wembley.

Williams admits the adjustment to Laudrup's methods took time, but has nothing but praise for the former Barcelona and Real Madrid midfielder.

"It was different when he came in," he said. "It took some time for everyone because they (Laudrup and Rodgers) were total opposites of each other in terms of how they worked from day to day.

"It took a while to get used to it, but we have enjoyed the year with him. He gives us plenty of leeway, he works differently to Brendan, but we enjoy working with him and he is an easy going guy.

"We have embraced that and he is fun to work for.

"He has definitely given the players more responsibility, especially the senior players, we make a lot more decisions off the field about how we want to do things.

"That was a shock at first as we were used to being told what to do, where to go and at what times, and he left it down to us.

"I have enjoyed that responsibility. It has been a big year for the senior lads in terms of looking out for the younger players and the lads coming in from other countries.

"I have enjoyed it, being as responsible as I can around the team."

Rooney has been given permission to sit out the trip as wife Coleen is due to give birth to the couple's second child.

The 27-year-old's Old Trafford future is in doubt after he asked for a transfer recently.

Sir Alex Ferguson has now passed that matter on to new manager David Moyes to deal with.

However, after being left out of Ferguson's final home game before retirement last week, it is understood Rooney will also miss the Scot's final one ever as a manager at The Hawthorns this afternoon.

Rangers have been dogged by controversy since embarking on an extravagant but doomed spending spree last summer and the situation has failed to improve since Redknapp's appointment in November.

The club's relegation from the Barclays Premier League was confirmed in April with three matches remaining and Redknapp, who concludes the season at Liverpool, insists changes must be made.

"It hasn't been easy, there always seems to be something going on every day. It seems to be one of those clubs," he said.

"There always seem to be issues with the players one way or another. It's probably as difficult a spell as I've had anywhere.

"Hopefully we can sort it out next season and change it around. We need to change things now - we need to get a new group in here.

"We need to bring lads in that won't get dragged down and will want to do well.

"We need to keep the ones we think will do well and we need to move out the ones that we don't think are with the club."

Redknapp believes tomorrow's trip to Anfield, which will see a guard of honour formed for retiring Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, will issue his players with a stark reminder of what they will be missing next season.

"I'm sure they will care, there is no better place to play your football than Anfield," he said.

"It's the best atmosphere anywhere. When that crowd sings beforehand it's the most moving thing anywhere.

"It's Carragher's last game too so it's a good game to play in and they can test themselves against good players.

"If they have any brains, when the come off they will know what the Premier League is about."

Liverpool are guaranteed to finish seventh, one place below city rivals Everton, regardless of tomorrow's result, but Redknapp believes manager Brendan Rodgers needs time to turn the club around

"Brendan has good players and it's a great club, but they haven't had a great season this year," Redknapp said.

"To finish behind Everton and be out of the top six is not good for Liverpool, but next year they will be expected to be up there challenging for a top-four position.

"You have to give people time, everybody needs time and Brendan will need time like anyone else if he is going to change things around.

"Next year is a big year and they'll be expected to push for a top-four position for sure."

The England coach is already having to cope with the absence of four key players for the forthcoming friendlies against the Republic of Ireland and Brazil.

More worrying though are the issue of post-season friendlies for Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham that will take away key figures from his squad and deny them the week's rest he was hoping for.

It means, instead of meeting up refreshed and ready for the encounter with the Republic at Wembley on May 29, Joe Hart, Frank Lampard and company will, almost literally, be stepping off a plane and heading straight to St George's Park for the start of the build up.

That scenario is not one Hodgson envisaged, leading him to make an emotional plea on behalf of the international game.

"I don't think I can ever stop emphasising how important playing for England should be," he said.

"If we're not careful we're going to lose sight of the fact that, yes, the Barclays Premier League is a fantastic league and winning it is something quite fantastic to do and the Champions League and Europa League are big things too but international football is up there.

"You've only got to wait for the World Cup or European Championships to come around to see how vitally important people regard the national team.

"It really brings people together.

"You should never in any way debase the chance to play for England.

"If you're lucky enough to even get one game that should be something that should keep you going in your football life for a long time."

Hodgson is particularly frustrated because he asked for the matches to be arranged earlier than the official international dates in order to ensure the players got away on holiday quicker, knowing the demands that could be placed upon them by the World Cup the following summer.

"I'm not going to be hypocritical about it," he said.

"Our thought a long time back was let's do it as quickly as possible after the league season and get the players back home for a long rest.

"My thinking, based on having been a club manager, was to let them have a week after the season ends, then we'll keep them a week and then they're free.

"We've been scotched a little bit by three teams deciding to go on long close-season tours.

"It's made in particular the first match a little bit difficult because some of the players will only have been back a few days when we've got to play."

They will also be heading back where they have just come from in the sense England leave for Brazil immediately after the Republic encounter to fulfil a date in the famous Maracana Stadium on June 2.

As ever, the players are the ones caught in the middle of that club versus country debate.

But having decided the two friendlies should be treated as essential preparation for key autumn qualifiers that will determine whether England actually reach Brazil 2014, Hodgson simply has to select the men he wants and hope they turn up in some sort of state to play.

"In the same way I can't have any influence over whether they got to the States or not, then when they come into my squad I can play them when I want," he said.

"Before the first game it will be a question of talking to the players and finding how they are."

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