Hodgson makes England plea

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.”