In Depth

England visit psychologist, as Hodgson rounds on the media

Manager stands by his players but pressure of managing England starts to take its toll

Roy Hodgson England manager

The England squad have an appointment with psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters today at their St George's Park training camp and first in the queue may be the manager. There are signs that the pressure is beginning to get to Roy Hodgson, two and a half years into arguably the least enviable job in football.

In comparison to some of his predecessors Hodgson has had a relatively easy ride from the press. Twenty years ago Graham Taylor was likened to a turnip while Fabio Capello was portrayed as a jackass by The Sun in 2010 and Glenn Hoddle was hounded out of his job for expressing his views on the afterlife. The worst abuse Hodgson's received was a childish jib about his speech impediment from The Sun on his first day as manager.

Perhaps, post-Leveson Inquiry, we live in gentler times as far as the press goes, or perhaps it's because the weight of expectation on this England squad has sunk so low that apathy has replaced abuse not just on the terraces but also in the tabloids.

So it was something of a surprise to see Hodgson get the hump simply because a reporter pointed out that England managed just two shots on target during Wednesday's feeble 1-0 victory over Norway. It was a valid question to raise given that since the Three Lions' abject showing in Brazil all the talk emanating from the Football Association has been of a "new journey" en route to the 2016 European Championships.

Hodgson though responded angrily to the interrogation, barking "don't hit me with statistics" and he was it again on Thursday when the matter was raised in an off-camera press briefing. "I am entitled to [be annoyed], aren't I? When you have questions like: 'You had only two shots on target'... because, for me, that is absolute f***ing bollocks, I'm sorry."

Hodgson was then asked if he believed his squad was being unfairly criticised for their performance against Norway.

"There is no chance of pulling wool over the eyes of people who know what top-class players look like," he said. "But I will continue to say, so long as they continue to give performances like that, some of these players are top, top players in the making. But they are players in the making. You can't play five games for England, be a regular in the Liverpool team for six or seven months, and be David Beckham. "

Few would argue that Hodgson is a likeable, decent man whose dedication to the England cause is plain for all to see. He's also a good coach with a proven track record at club and international level. His greatest challenge – though he would never admit it publicly – is that he has inherited one of the poorest England squads in living memory.

There is not one world-class player among them and several players aren't even first-choice at their clubs. Hodgson is doing the best he can in the circumstances and his final plea to the press ahead of Monday's opening Euro 16 qualifier was revealing: "Allow me to be excited by what they can do and allow me when they do play well to stand in front of an assembled press conference and say: 'I think they did well' even though there might be some cynicism out there.

"Maybe it wasn't as good [as you wanted], fine. That is up to you, just as long as you don't expect me to go down the same route."

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