Hodgson fears poor Euros, being 'conned' by team
After being parachuted into the England job barely a month before the European Championship, Roy Hodgson knows it could all end in tears at the tournament.
''I'm not naive enough to think it will all be plain sailing,'' Hodgson said. ''It could be the most terrific three weeks or the most torrid of my career.''
And it's been some career - winning eight league titles in two countries with three clubs, and coaching three other national teams before England.
But if only having two warmup matches to assess his England players wasn't bad enough, Hodgson's plans were hampered further by tournament-ending injuries for a trio of key players.
And, in a startlingly honest forecast, Hodgson claimed he'd prefer his squad to completely fail at Euro 2012 rather than any hard luck stories, starting on Monday against France in Group D.
''If it's torrid I hope that it's for the right reasons,'' Hodgson said. ''By that, I mean because the players have let myself and the team down very badly, we have played very badly and that fair-minded people watching us are thinking, 'my God, what are they doing.'
''And if that does happen, I will learn an awful lot about what I need to do in the coming couple of years to make sure it doesn't happen in Brazil in 2014 (at the World Cup). I can honestly say that's the thing that could make it really torrid for me if I get a totally different in the games from what I am expecting to see from these players.''
Because Hodgson has been encouraged by what he's seen in the friendlies - 1-0 wins over Norway and Belgium - and the few training sessions since the three-month search to replace Fabio Capello ended in early May.
''If (the players) have conned me into thinking I am working with a good bunch here and this is a bunch who won't let me or the team or the nation down, then suddenly in three games they really do, then that for me would be the real painful blow,'' Hodgson said. ''Much more painful than if I have to read that I got the team wrong or I should have picked this player or done that or the penalty spot wasn't bright enough.''
But the squad appears to be flourishing under Hodgson, with an affable Londoner replacing a disciplinarian Italian who struggled to communicate fully to his players.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart said the mood in the squad is ''a whole lot different'' since the exit of Capello, whose England side went out of the 2010 World Cup in the last 16.
''There's no language barrier, the service is different,'' he said, comparing Hodgson and Capello. ''They've both got totally different methods ... it's a lot easier when you can speak quicker. It's a lot more fluent.''
Coaching his own country is the pinnacle of a nomadic 36-year coaching career for Hodgson that has taken in jobs at European powers Inter Milan and Liverpool, and national jobs with Switzerland, Finland and the United Arab Emirates.
Hodgson was hired from mid-table Premier League team West Bromwich Albion last month in preference to fans' favorite Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager.
''I would be lying if I said I hadn't really enjoyed it or felt it hadn't gone more smoothly than I could have expected it to go, coming in so late,'' Hodgson said.
There has, however, been intense scrutiny in England over the decision not to include center back Rio Ferdinand in the squad.
Hodgson claims Ferdinand was left out because he didn't want to insult an 81-cap veteran by leaving him on the bench rather than over concerns he couldn't play with John Terry.
But Hodgson said he did consider the fact Terry is facing trial for allegedly racially abusing Ferdinand's brother, Anton, the Queens Park Rangers defender.
''I work in football day in, day out, I don't live on the planet Mars. So you can't expect me to say I didn't even give that a thought,'' Hodgson said. ''But I chose the center backs I wanted to come with me.''
Hodgson hopes the Ferdinand dispute is over, the negativity ends and there are no further injuries after losing midfielders Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry, and defender Gary Cahill.
''We've not been blessed with enormous good luck so far,'' Hodgson said. ''But my wife would suggest, being fatalistic as she is, that might be good for the future.''
Rob Harris can be reached at www.twitter.com/RobHarris