England manager Roy Hodgson will not over-emphasise the subject of penalties when they begin preparations for the FIFA World Cup™.
Hodgson will make the toughest call of his 38-year career in management when he names his 23-man squad for the World Cup. Seven days later England begin a three-week build-up which takes place in Portugal, London and Miami. The subject of penalty kicks will barely be raised during that time. England have won just one of the seven penalty shoot-outs they have taken part in. But Hodgson will only discuss the topic at length with his squad if they qualify for the knockout stages.
"I've got to say the subject of penalties bores me a little bit," the England manager said. "I won't be giving it an enormous amount of thought until we get out of the group stages. Of course we will practice a few, as every single team does. But I would think psychologically the obsession we have with penalty shoot-outs can only be negative in terms of succeeding in the next one.
"I'm not a psychologist, but I think if you go around all day worrying about a particular problem in life there's a much greater chance that problem will become greater than if you are able to put that problem out of your mind."
Hodgson believes constant practice from the penalty spot can only help so much. The 66-year-old is aware that the psychological struggle is the biggest when it comes to spot-kicks. Ashley Cole and Ashley Young had a 100 per cent record in practice during UEFA EURO 2012, Hodgson revealed, but they both missed from 12 yards against Italy.
The best way of not losing on penalties is not to get to them.
Hodgson recalls the USA 1994 penalty miss by Roberto Baggio - "one of the best technicians I have worked with" - as evidence that pressure and not skill is the biggest factor when it comes to penalty shoot-outs.
"The best way of not losing on penalties is not to get to them," Hodgson said.
But if England fans hope the appointment of Dr. Steve Peters as team psychiatrist will help end England's awful record, then they must think again.
"If we win or lose on penalties, it won't be because Steve Peters has joined us," the former Liverpool manager said. "Steve Peters has nothing to do with penalties. It's not his responsibility at all."
Peters, acclaimed in his field for the work he has done with Liverpool, Team GB and Ronnie O'Sullivan among others, will be available to speak to players on a one-to-one basis if they need him. Hodgson, who is a fan of Peters' "fascinating" book, The Chimp Paradox, will not force his players to regularly interact with the psychiatrist, who was recommended to him by British Cycling's former performance director Dave Brailsford.
"I've got a very curious group of players, an open minded group of players," Hodgson said. "I wouldn't be at all surprised if quite a few others wanted to come and speak to him and find out what he's got to say, how they can better prepare mentally for matches. But I don't intend to say to the players 'This is Steve Peters, you must go to see him'. They will go to him if they want to go to him."
Provisional squad selection looms
Hodgson will name his 23-man squad, along with up to seven stand-by players, at 2pm on Monday in Luton.
The England manager says he selected his squad "weeks ago", but he has had to make several alterations due to injuries to Theo Walcott, Andros Townsend and Jay Rodriguez. Further changes will be required if Kyle Walker and Phil Jones are ruled out with their respective pelvic and shoulder injuries.
One of the main talking points will be whether Hodgson includes Ashley Cole or Luke Shaw as understudy to Leighton Baines. Hodgson has not ruled out taking all three.
If Jones and Walker are ruled out, Hodgson is likely to draft in another centre-half - possibly either Steven Caulker of Cardiff or Everton teenager John Stones, who only made his first English Premier League start on New Year's Day.
Up front Hodgson must decide whether to include either Rickie Lambert of Southampton, Andy Carroll of West Ham or Jermain Defoe of Toronto.
Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick will be concerned about their places after a poor year with Manchester United while Hodgson must decide between John Ruddy, Fraser Forster and Jack Butland for the third goalkeeper position.