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
“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
“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
“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
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
“He never loses his temper or raises his voice,” said the Wales
“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
“In Britain we are used to managers coming in and going
“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
Williams admits the adjustment to Laudrup’s methods took time,
but has nothing but praise for the former Barcelona and Real Madrid
“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
“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
“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
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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
“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
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
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
“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.”