Bern: England manager Roy Hodgson believes the signs for the future are bright after handing debuts to several young prospects in Wednesday’s 2-1 victory against Italy in the Swiss capital.
The likes of Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole and John Terry were not required for this game, played just three days before the start of the new Premier League season.
There were a lot of players looking to make an impression ahead of the qualifiers and I’m happy with the way they played.
It is the qualifiers that really count...
Their availability means that Hodgson does not need to completely re-build ahead of the World Cup in Brazil in two years’ time, but he was delighted to see some of the next generation come through a demanding test against an experimental, but technically accomplished, Italian side.
Goalkeepers Jack Butland and John Ruddy and Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley all showed up well on their debuts, while there were also international bows from the bench for Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand and Spurs midfielder Jake Livermore.
“It was just the type of game I expected,” said Hodgson, who watched his side come from behind thanks to goals from Phil Jagielka and substitute Jermaine Defoe after Italy captain Daniele De Rossi had opened the scoring.
“There were a lot of players looking to make an impression ahead of the qualifiers and I’m happy with the way they played.
“It is the qualifiers that really count but it is nice to know that we have a deeper squad than the one we took to the Euros.”
Hodgson was particularly impressed with those members of his side who also featured for the Great Britain team that reached the quarter-finals of the Olympics football tournament before suffering a penalty shoot-out defeat to South Korea.
“I genuinely thought everyone did well. I would be hard pushed to criticise anyone, but it was nice to see Cleverley, Butland and Bertrand, who are fresh from the GB Team.
“They brought that form and enthusiasm with them and it was very useful for us in terms of our midfield play.”
Cleverley played in front of Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick in central midfield in what was effectively a 4-2-3-1 formation, and Hodgson hopes that the Manchester United man was able to learn from the more established stars around him.
“You don’t become a really good player overnight. You have to play an awful lot of matches and do it at the highest level,” added Hodgson, whose only defeat since being appointed England manager remains that penalty shoot-out loss to Italy in Kiev in June’s Euro 2012 quarter-final.
“Tonight the quality of their play was very good and it was good for the young players to have those people who could show that composure on the ball around them.”
Manchester United’s Carrick was appearing for England for the first time since a friendly win against Mexico in May 2010, and his intelligent use of possession gave something extra to their game.
Hodgson added: “At the Euros, especially in the second half of the game against Italy, we had an excuse because we were a bit tired.
“That wasn’t the way we want to play — but tonight was.”
The crowd inside the Wankdorf Stadium in Bern may have been sparse, and the occasion nothing compared to the tension of a Euro 2012 quarter-final between the teams, but it was a never-to-be-forgotten night for Cleverley.
“It was a proud moment, and obviously a big occasion in any footballer’s life,” said the 23-year-old.
“Hopefully I have impressed the manager and can be called up again.”
He will find out soon enough, with the first 2014 World Cup qualifiers, away to Moldova and at home to Ukraine, to come at the beginning of next month.