England manager Roy Hodgson feels he has a good relationship with English Premier League teams’ bosses, and still doesn’t understand the media frenzy over his selection decisions.
In the build-up to the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier against Estonia in Talinn last month, the Three Lions boss revealed young Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling had told him he was tired ahead of the final training session, which led to accusations the 19-year-old had said he did not want to play.
Those claims have been refuted by Hodgson, though he was less than impressed by the way Reds boss Brendan Rodgers handled the fall-out via a radio interview in which he declared it was “grossly unfair how the kid has been put on the back pages for something he clearly did not say.”
Hodgson left messages with Rodgers over the fitness of Liverpool forward Daniel Sturridge ahead of naming his squad for the EURO 2016 qualifier against Slovenia at Wembley and the friendly in Scotland, and also had dialogue with Arsenal over the likely involvement of Theo Walcott, who is only just back from a long-term knee injury.
Hodgson, a former club boss himself, remains confident his working dynamic with club managers remains sound.
“My relationship with the clubs is good. I don’t have any problems with the clubs. Once again, people will always try to make that,” said the England manager, who had spells in charge of Fulham, Liverpool and West Brom before taking on the national team in May 2012.
“The club-country conflict is something which has kept newspapers going for years and years, so when there isn’t really one (a problem), I have to accept that every now and again, one will be invented, but we don’t have any problems.”
“I have been very lucky with all the clubs, with all the managers. They have all been very, very good.”
“No-one has ever come to me and said, ‘Look, I don’t want you picking my player.’ No player has ever been put in that position by his manager of trying to pull out of an England team.”
“That is the reality of the situation, that is the truth of the situation, and that is what I live with. I can’t stop people suggesting otherwise. That is up to them.”
Hodgson though remains irked by the way in which the tactical decision to put Sterling on the bench against Estonia in Tallinn had been played out.
“Neither Raheem Sterling nor I should have come in for any criticism whatsoever. That is the bottom line,” he said.
“But there is a week after a football match when there is not much to write about and it suited people to focus on that.”
“I don’t think Raheem did anything wrong, by coming and saying you are feeling tired on the day before the game and that you don’t think you can take part in the training session.”
“It never for one minute occurred to me that he would be criticised like he was for doing that.”
“I never for one minute said he was too tired to play.”
“I did make the decision when he seemed too tired to train the day before the game as we were working on our team that was playing, to immediately put someone in his position, (and him) not starting.”
“But he came on from the substitutes’ bench and came on and helped us win the game.”
Hodgson insists he was right to be so open in his post-match media comments, one of which to BBC Radio Five Live was “he (Sterling) said, ‘I’m feeling tired, I’d rather sit this one out’.”
The England manager continued: “There were 30 people when he came up and told me he was feeling tired. We were just about to start the training session. How was that going to stay quiet?”
“Alternatively I would be accused of not wanting to play him, but instead of dropping him and saying ‘I was dropping him’, that I was using tiredness or something as an excuse. How could that be the case?”
“We are just about to start a training session with him in a bib for the first team, and I only played him for 45 minutes in the last game so he could play from the start.”
“What choice did I have but to tell the truth? And why should that be such a problem?”