London: England football manager Roy Hodgson was on hand at The Oval yesterday to give his congratulations to Alastair Cook’s Ashes-winners in person.
Hodgson, accompanied by assistant Ray Lewington, chatted to players from both the England and Australia teams as they trained ahead of the Ashes finale at the south London ground,which starts on Thursday. He had been invited to The Oval by Australia doctor Peter Brukner, who worked with Hodgson when they were both at Premier League giants Liverpool. The former Reds manager even had time to cast his eye over the England cricketers’ warm-up football kickabout — with the likes of Adam Lyth and Jonny Bairstow having being promising soccer players in their youth.
Hodgson’s England side are currently unbeaten in their qualification campaign for the 2016 European Championships in France and are not in action until they face minnows San Marino next month. And he stayed on to give a short ‘team talk’ to Cook’s men, who’ve already clinched the Ashes after their innings and 78-run win over Australia in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge gave them an unbeatable 3-1 lead in the five-match series. The Oval clash comes ahead of England’s tours of the United Arab Emirates and South Africa, the world’s top-ranked Test nation, with Cook’s team looking to do what no England side has done before in winning four matches in a home Ashes series.
“I just congratulated them on regaining the Ashes and wished them luck on their tours this winter to the UAE and South Africa,” said Hodgson. As for the England cricketers’ football skills, Hodgson added: “They were good.It comes as no surprise that people who are good at one sport are good at another. “A couple of them could probably have had a career in professional football — but thankfully for us, they chose cricket.” Bairstow said he hoped he had caught Hodgson’s eye. It’s great to have Roy here watching on,” he said.
I used to be in the academy at Leeds United, so I’m sure he’ll spot my talent — and that will be a big factor in the way I play.” However, Hodgson kept his thoughts about specific players to himself. I didn’t really watch long enough to pick out individuals — and even if I did, it wouldn’t be fair to name anyone in particular,” he said. Like many English sports fans of his generation, the 68-year-old Hodgson grew up watching both football and cricket. I watched county cricket as a boy,” he said. “But then I lived abroad for the bulk of my footballing and mature life – so in actual fact, I’ve rekindled my interest and love of the game since I came back to England about eight years ago.”
Australia opener Chris Rogers confirmed Hodgson’s youthful enthusiasm for cricket by saying: “He talked about watching county cricket in the 1950s, so he’s got a fair bit of history there.” History is what Cook’s team have made in the Ashes and Hodgson hopes it’s the start of a run of success that includes the national rugby union team, with England hosting the World Cup that starts next month, and his own side as well. The support for the cricket team is fully deserved, of course — because they’ve had great success winning back the Ashes,” said Hodgson.
We hope that’s going to carry on (in the Rugby World Cup) for (coach) Stuart (Lancaster) and the team – and we hope, even more so from a personal point of view, it’s going to carry over into France 2016. If the rugby team does well also, we’ll have two very good role models,” Hodgson added.