As the Football Association begins its 150th anniversary year, England manager Roy Hodgson has challenged his players to provide the ultimate celebration by at least putting themselves in contention to end almost half a century without a trophy.
Hodgson is the latest in a string of managers charged with ending England’s wait for a first major honour since their lone World Cup final triumph, against the then West Germany at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1966.
But after helping the FA launch its landmark birthday on the London site of its first meeting, the curret incumbent in the so-called ‘impossible job’ refused to accept it may take another 50 years to replicate.
“There’s always hope,” Hodgson insisted. “Hope springs eternal. But what you have to do to win tournaments is make sure you’re regularly among the ones who are up there with a possibility of winning.
“You could compare it to someone who is an amateur darts player. The more darts he throws in and around the centre, one day he will get it in the bullseye.
“If he’s spreading them around the board your chances will be less than if he’s getting them in the 25 circle.”
Hodgson took England to the quarter-finals at Euro 2012, only losing on penalties to Italy — even though his team’s performances were often described as limited by many critics who yearn for England to rely more on technique and finesse than just their famous bulldog spirit.
The FA shares the same ambition; which is why it has built a national academy in central England at St George’s Park — a school for coaches where all 24 national teams will also be based.
And although Hodgson knows any rewards from that venture are a long way down the line, he hasn’t ruled out a degree of short-term success if England qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
“The first thing we have to do of course is qualify for the tournament,” he said. “And then when we qualify it will be important that we give a very good account of ourselves at the World Cup in Brazil. And who knows, once you are there you have a chance of winning it.
“I think we have some very good young players coming into the game playing regularly now and showing that they do have the ability to shoulder the burden.”
Hodgson was joined at The FA’s anniversary launch by several former England managers including Sven-Goran Eriksson, Terry Venables and Fabio Capello, who left the role in controversial circumstances following a row over a decision to strip John Terry of the England captaincy.
But the Italian was all smiles as he said: “We are all friends now. It is very good to come back and see the people I used to work with. I have no problems with anyone.
“You know I can’t talk about what happened with England but I am enjoying my life with Russia and my hope is that we play England in Brazil at the World Cup. That would be very good I think.”
FA chairman David Bernstein welcomed Capello’s participation by insisting: “Fabio is a man of great dignity and I respect him enormously.
“To see him today (Wednesday) and the warmth he showed, and there was a great deal of warmth when we met each other was really fabulous. It’s the way it should be. There were hugs all round.”
Meanwhile it emerged the FA, which has already arranged anniversary England friendlies against Brazil, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, was also looking to fit in matches against Argentina and Germany at Wembley in October and November.