Hodgson to call on big guns

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is hoping to see Steven Gerrard
pen a new contract, with extension talks planned.

The Reds skipper still has 12 months left to run on his current
deal, but Rodgers is eager to tie him to terms which would allow
the talismanic midfielder to see out his career at Anfield.

He claims Gerrard still has ‘a lot more to give’ and feels
Liverpool should be looking to reward a man who has given loyal
service to the club throughout a distinguished 15-year career.

Rodgers said: “Steven has a year left and that is something he
and I are about to discuss.

“Then, I will take things through to the board upstairs.

“There is no doubt that Steven is a player who has given so much
to the club, but he has also got a lot more to give.

“It just emphasises how selfless Steven is that he hasn’t wanted
to talk about a contract because his focus has been on the team and
improving his own game.

“But, obviously, I want him to know that he is very much a part
of what we are doing here and a new contract is something we will
look at between now and the summer.”

Professionalism

Rodgers added: “Steven is in the same category as (Ryan) Giggs
purely because of his professionalism.

“Players that go beyond a certain age have looked after
themselves since they were 19 or 20. It’s not by accident.

“These players sleep and rest in the afternoons. They eat the
right things and keep their bodyweight the same. When it comes to
the point when other players get injured and can’t go on, they keep
playing because they’ve looked after themselves.

“That is down to professionalism and commitment to their
profession. Steven comes in every single day at the same time. He’s
like clockwork. He gets in early, lets the medics assess him, eats
the right foods and is ready to train at 10.30am.

“I have never seen him give less than 150 per cent. He never has
a lazy day.

“Steven is an incredible player and I have never even thought
about replacing him because he has many more years left in
him.”

It was confirmed over the weekend that Premier League
heavyweights Chelsea and Manchester City would meet in St Louis on
May 23, just four days after the end of the season, and six before
England take on the Republic of Ireland at Wembley.

The match in the USA is hardly ideal for Hodgson as it means up
to eight members of his squad – although more likely five or six –
may not get the rest he would hope for prior to meeting for key
fixtures, including a trip to Brazil on June 2.

Yet Hodgson has no doubt he is entitled to have the players,
even if the situation is slightly more complicated than he
thinks.

“As far as I understand it, the period of time in May and June
are FIFA dates,” he said.

“When there are FIFA dates and international matches, the first
call on the players is to their international teams.

“These are two bona-fide matches.

“A lot of the teams are playing qualifiers, so I don’t think I
need have any worries about the players I select coming to play for
England.

“They are aware that we need to prepare well for the autumn
matches.” Hodgson’s problem is that the games England have
scheduled fall outside of the actual international window.

Indeed, whilst England are taking on Brazil at the world famous
Maracana Stadium, the Spanish domestic season will be drawing to a
close.

World Cup qualifiers, including Montenegro’s home clash with
Ukraine, take place the following weekend, with the Confederations
Cup, in which Spain, Italy, Brazil and Mexico are amongst the
competitors, arranged for later in June.

It means Hodgson cannot stop his Chelsea or Manchester City
contingent heading to the States, nor any of his other players who
may be required for club duties.

Little wonder the England coach wants his senior players around
this summer.

After all, Tuesday’s draw in Podgorica left plenty of areas to
work on ahead of the four vital autumn games that will determine
whether England reach the World Cup without needing the safety net
of those hazardous play-offs.

“I have not given any thought to the summer,” said Hodgson.

“You will understand that we have just had two important
qualifiers and gone home with four points.

“It has been a cul-de-sac for me. Now I have six or seven weeks
to concern myself with who plays against Ireland and who goes to
Brazil.”

It was a rather unfortunate use of the phrase cul-de-sac, for
that is exactly what England seem determined to head down in their
approach to international football.

Season after season, England fail to reach their true potential.
And almost always it is due to an inability to adapt to the nuances
of the international game.

Yet again in Montenegro, they showed a startling inability to
retain possession against a decent side who given the circumstances
could have been expected to perform far better in the second half
than the first, when they were completely outplayed.

Montenegro’s own play showed signs of nerves. Yet they were
assisted by England’s desire to push forward in search of further
reward when they were already a goal ahead.

It was an approach lifted straight out of the Premier League,
and the reason why England’s domestic competition is the most
exciting in the world.

Sometimes more is required than a simple hunger for goals.
Sometimes games need to be closed out, or crowds silenced,
possession retained for the sake of it, purely to induce
frustration in opposition ranks and make it easier to find gaps
yourself.

“Our ball retention wasn’t too bad against San Marino. Our ball
retention wasn’t too bad against Brazil,” said Hodgson.

“Our ball retention in the first-half (against Montenegro)
wasn’t too bad.

“I refuse to accept that just because everyone’s judgement is
that we didn’t play as well in the second half as we did in the
first, it is suddenly all about ball retention.

“How big a sample are we going to use? Twenty-five or 30
minutes, or half a dozen games?

“Maybe we can do it another way. We might forget the second half
completely and go back to Brazil or San Marino.

“My point is every time the team has a period when we don’t play
to the high levels of expectation, you don’t suddenly start
suggesting everything we are doing is wrong.

“It might have something to do with our opponents.

“We weren’t playing a poor team. A lot of those players are
playing at the very highest level.

“If they were available for transfer, many of the Premier League
teams trying to sign them up.”