Jon Dunham – Roy won’t care, but he proved me wrong

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

While the furore over a certain joke continues, allow me if I may to actually talk about the football for a moment.

The job was well and truly done on Tuesday night as Roy Hodgson and his England players ensured our place in Brazil for next year’s World Cup.

And while Hodgson (or anyone else within the England camp for that matter) will not care a jot about how the events at Wembley over the last week have changed my own thoughts, I have a feeling I may not be alone in what I am about to say.

When he was appointed in May last year, I was quick to criticise the choice. I stood very much in the Harry Redknapp corner.

Those who know me, know that (unlike many others) I am always happy to admit when I am wrong and, after the qualifying campaign we have seen, I was wrong on this one.

Genuinely, I thought Hodgson would struggle to get us though the group. Matches in Poland and the Ukraine looked tricky while my main issue was how this particular man would motivate a group of players to finally show us what playing for England is all about. Admittedly, the morale of the squad couldn’t exactly sink lower than it did under Fabio Capello.

Euro 2012 wasn’t all that bad, ultimately (and we have to accept it at times) we were beaten by a better side in Italy, albeit on penalties.

But the qualifying for next year’s event has been just about perfect. It has got better as time has gone along. There has been the odd blip or two but it was always in our hands and when it was delivered, it was done so in impressive style.

Hodgson had the nerve to pick Andros Townsend against Montenegro and take the shackles off the team. Yes, it was only Montenegro but the performance had a bit of style to it as well as being played a high tempo.

It was the same again on Tuesday. Team selection was spot on – Carrick for Lampard was the right call – and I found myself in an unusual position given the magnitude of the game.

I never once felt we would not do it. I didn’t feel nervous at any point over the 90 minutes.

Indeed, that is a statement from a patriot but also from someone who was inside Wembley Stadium when we were beaten 3-2 by Croatia on that fateful Wednesday night in 2007.

That game knocked the stuffing out of me for a while as far as the national side after I had become a regular visitor to the capital to watch them.

After Tuesday night, I was regretting not going. It was a good night for English football and they have been few and far between in recent years.

Will we win the World Cup? It is, of course highly unlikely. I am an England fan but I am no fool. But I am pleased, at least, to see a bit of progress being made and Hodgson deserves credit for that.

You can see him gradually bringing the younger players into the fold and there is undoubted talent in there.

But he is using the likes of Steven Gerrard (the complete midfielder without question), Wayne Rooney (destined to be England’s top goalscorer of all time) and Lampard (always a solid performer) in the best ways possible to make us a success.

There are plenty of cynics, there always will be. And don’t get me wrong, we aren’t world champion material by any stretch.

But Hodgson got another thing right in the aftermath of Tuesday. When asked about the Three Lions’ chances next summer, he said: “We’ve got a chance. If you want to win the lottery, buy a lottery ticket. We have our ticket.”

Fair play to you Roy, you have got it right and I will be behind you 100 per cent next summer. Let’s hope the rest of the country are as well.