BLACKBURN Rovers great Derek Fazackerley believes a lack of expectation and Roy Hodgson’s experience will be a big help to England at the World Cup.
The Three Lions, ranked as 25-1 outsiders to win the trophy for only the second time, get their campaign under way against Italy tonight (11pm).
And Fazackerley is well placed to offer his verdict on how they will fare in Brazil.
He worked with England boss Hodgson during his 18-month stint in charge of Rovers and he knows all about the pressure of major international tournaments having been part of the Three Lions backroom team at Euro 2000.
Fazackerley, Rovers’ record appearance holder, said: “Roy is very experienced, very well organised and a good man manager. From England’s point of view I think they have got him at a good time.
“He’s experienced a World Cup before, when he took Switzerland to the USA in 1994, and he’s also got the experience of leading England in a European Championship two years ago.
“So I think this is a really good time for him.
“And I think this time there is less expectation on England, throughout the country, than there has been in past tournaments.
“That should help, as should the fact that there are quite a few young players in the squad.
“I think the mix is very good. You’ve got the experienced ones like (Frank) Lampard, (Wayne) Rooney and (Steven) Gerrard and the less experienced ones like (Adam) Lallana, (Rickie) Lambert, (Raheem) Sterling and (Daniel) Sturridge.
“I think it’s a good, healthy situation.”
Having helped caretaker manager Tony Parkes steer the club to Premier League survival, Fazackerley was already on the Rovers coaching staff by the time Hodgson arrived at Ewood Park in the summer of 1997. It was Hodgson’s first big job in English football after nearly 20 years working abroad in Sweden, Switzerland and Italy with Inter Milan.
Hodgson led Rovers into the UEFA Cup in his first season in charge but was sacked 14 games into his second.
Fazackerley said: “There was a lot of structure to the training and to the team play, which Roy is still a big advocate of now.
“The season before Tony Parkes and myself had just about managed to keep them in the Premier League and Roy came in and turned it around.
“There was a little bit of unrest in the dressing room, with one or two players leaving, but he took it all in his stride and I think his management of the whole situation, and not just his coaching, endeared him to everybody.
“But we had a disappointing start to the next season, there’s absolutely no doubt about that.
“But I think they would have had a better chance of staying up had they stuck with him and not sacked him and appointed Brian Kidd.
“They eventually went down anyway and I thought at the time, and still do now, that Roy’s sacking was premature.”
Fazackerley was not kept on by Kidd after his appointment in December 1998.
But ‘Faz’, as he is affectionately known, was not out of work for long.
As three months later the then England manager Kevin Keegan, with whom Fazackerley had worked with at Newcastle United, came calling.
Fazackerley was part of Keegan’s backroom team at Euro 2000 in Belgium and Holland and, while his sole taste of a major international tournament ended in disappointment, with the Three Lions crashing out at the group stage, he would not change it for the world.
“It was a fantastic experience,” said Fazackerley, who made 674 appearances for Rovers between 1971 and 1987.
“From the build up to it, to the organising of training camps, sessions and hotels – just being involved from the inside and seeing what a huge operation it is. The detail they get down into is amazing.
“Obviously we came home too soon but irrespective of that it was still the proudest moment of my footballing career.
“You look back and there might have been things we could have done differently.
“But that’s tournament football for you – you only get one chance at it and you have to make the very, very best of it.”