Hodgson expresses no age preference
Roy Hodgson insists age will be no barrier to an England career as long as he is in charge. Hodgson selected 34-year-old Frank Lampard as his skipper in Wednesday's win over Italy. Lampard was partnered in central midfield by 31-year-old Michael Carrick, and another two members of the over-30s club, Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker, were his preferred partnership at UEFA EURO 2012.
For Lampard in particular, the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ seems a long way off. However, whilst Hodgson is anxious to stress he is picking teams to win matches rather than as a long-term building process for Brazil, his past experience means he will never discard anyone on the grounds of what it says on their birth certificate.
"I remember having Jari Litmanen and Sami Hyypia with Finland, one was 38, the other 34, playing in a side whose average age was around 31," he said. "Sami was a very similar player at 34 to when he was 19.
"Frank is a very fit lad. He is one of those players who plays a lot of matches one after another without injury. I am rather hoping he will keep fit, playing well and first of all helps us get to Brazil and then be a contender. It is not something that concerns me at this moment in time. It might if we qualify and either he is not playing well or showing signs of being past it."
Providing he retains his hunger, there is no reason why Lampard's body should fail him. The huge advances in sports science are prolonging careers like never before. Carrick's team-mate Ryan Giggs is about to start his 23rd season, with every likelihood the Welshman will continue beyond this term as well.
"Players are looked after so well in their clubs now with the rehabilitation and recuperation, it is only really major injuries that can stop them," said Hodgson. "Michael and Frank are still doing what they did at 19 but with the added advantage of having all the experience, quality and ability that matches and experience give you."
Which leads Hodgson to an inescapable conclusion. "Age is not a crucial factor when it comes to a footballer," he said. "It is how good he is, how fit he is and how capable he is of doing the work required. At the moment, I prefer just to concentrate on our qualifying matches. In two years' time they might still be flying. On the other hand, they might have retired, so I don't even bother to look ahead."
As Scott Parker and Gareth Barry remain sidelined through injury, Lampard and Carrick will be in Hodgson's squad for the start of next month's FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. A visit to Moldova and a Wembley meeting with a Ukraine outfit weakened since Wayne Rooney's goal beat them in Donetsk last month should garner six points and confirm a trouble-free start to the long journey that Hodgson hopes will end in Brazil.
The old guard of Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Ashley Cole will return, although Glen Johnson cannot be sure of his place after Kyle Walker confirmed his well-being in Berne on Wednesday. Indeed, there were a number of pleasing performances in the 2-1 win, which at least gives Hodgson comfort he has strength in depth where previously it appeared little existed.
The goalkeeping department is one such area. And with Joe Hart still troubled by a back injury, additional attention will now be paid to John Ruddy's performances at Norwich to give Hodgson a bit more information on a keeper whose presence in Switzerland was overshadowed by Jack Butland's confirmation as the youngest goalkeeper in England history.
"Forty-five minutes is a small sample to make a decision on but he showed a lot of composure and a lot of character," said Hodgson. "What we have to do now is watch him very closely.
"There won't be a Norwich match he plays where I don't get a good report because we need to get a better grip on how he is as a goalkeeper. When I selected him for EURO 2012 it was a fairly quick decision based on not an awful lot of knowledge."