Belfast Telegraph

Hodgson thankful FA kept faith after World Cup of woe

By Paul Hirst

Roy Hodgson admits he was lucky to keep his job after England's dismal showing at last year's World Cup.

Stuart Lancaster paid the price for failing to qualify from the group stages of the rugby World Cup on Wednesday when he left his role as England coach.

Luckily for Hodgson, his employers at the Football Association were not so ruthless.

Despite crashing out of the group stages after failing to win a match in Brazil last summer, the FA kept faith with Hodgson, but he admits it could have easily gone the other way.

"I was more fortunate that the FA kept faith in me at a time when results didn't go as they should," the England manager said when asked about his friend Lancaster.

"I'm grateful the FA kept faith with me and the work we were doing with a good team in a transitional period."

Results since England returned from Brazil suggest the FA were right to stick with Hodgson. The former Fulham and Liverpool manager has not lost a game since the World Cup.

England's 15-match unbeaten run will come under serious threat tonight, however, when they play European champions Spain at the Estadio Jose Rico Perez in Alicante.

Already without 14 regulars, Hodgson was left cursing his luck on the eve of the match after Jamie Vardy suffered an injury. The Premier League's top scorer sat out training yesterday and is "unlikely" to feature.

Despite Vardy's absence, Wayne Rooney will not start. The captain is being rested ahead of Tuesday's game against France so Harry Kane will lead the line on the Costa Blanca.

"There was no reason behind (resting Rooney)," Hodgson said.

"They are both good games, both equally important, and we want to see (Rooney, Vardy and Kane), that's the bottom line."

It is the first time Rooney has not started a game when available since the 0-0 draw against Costa Rica at the World Cup.

The 30-year-old admits he faces a tough test to hold on to a regular place in the team - and it will only get harder when Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott are fit.

"It's a huge challenge to keep your place in the team and that's what I want to do," Rooney said.

"I want to prove myself. I feel since Roy has been in charge, my international form has been great, I have scored a lot of goals and I hope that will continue."

Hodgson confirmed Ross Barkley will make his sixth England start against Spain and there was a hint that Michael Carrick will make the team too.

Friendly: Estadio José Rico Pérez, Alicante, Spain v England, 7.45pm (ITV).

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