Neil Humphreys: Stop the experimenting, Roy

Three Lions boss must play his best 11 to show their Euro 2016 credentials

Roy Hodgson.


(Tomorrow, 3,45am, Olympic Stadium, Berlin)

Stereotypes can be cruel, but Roy Hodgson still comes across as an indecisive man.

The England manager gives the impression he spends an hour at the whiteboard deciding whether to pick tea or coffee for breakfast.

His two previous tournaments didn't see him err on the side of caution.

He leapt into bed with caution, turning his back on risk, invention, youth, creativity and any other bold impulses usually associated with successful managers.

But this is his last chance. There will not be another if he fails again at Euro 2016.

Hodgson, in his customary bumbling fashion, has spoken of his plans to experiment against Germany tomorrow morning (Singapore time) and Holland next week.

But it's too late now. Hodgson shouldn't play with the toolkit any more than Rory McIlroy should fiddle with a new set of clubs on the eve of a Major tournament.

With only one defeat in their last 17 games, England's time for experimenting has passed.

Hodgson must go for broke against a Germany side who typically pick their best available players in the final warm-ups.

But Hodgson is likely to procrastinate. One of world football's great ditherers, his conservatism usually eats away at his common sense, which hints at an infuriating scenario against Germany.


Common sense surely dictates a youthful line-up. Right the way through England's spine, youth must prevail.

Based on form, consistency and the current complexion of the English Premier League, the kids are all right.

But, like an uncle asking for Abba at a family wedding, Hodgson loves a golden oldie. He has already insisted that Wayne Rooney has earned his Euro 2016 selection and is a probable starter.

Why exactly? Apart from his injury, the England skipper chases the shadow of history, unable to catch his former self.

But his inevitable selection, along with the baffling inclusion of Theo Walcott, betrays a manager who's still compelled to play safe.

Hodgson's stubbornness must give way to bold pragmatism and that means picking - and sticking with - youngsters and newcomers; mostly from Tottenham and Leicester.

England's rare successes in the past were largely attributed to practical managers utilising established partnerships and relationships at club level.

Moore, Hurst and Peters at West Ham and Stiles and Charlton at Manchester United led the Boys of '66 to their solitary World Cup triumph.

The Hammers trio were telepathic in their set-piece delivery and Stiles did the fetching and carrying for his club and country ringmaster.

In England's semi-final in Italia '90, Nottingham Forest duo Des Walker and Stuart Pearce shared defensive duties, while Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne took on the attacking responsibilities they had at Tottenham.

Aside from those two tournaments, successive England managers have consistently failed to learn from Spain and Barcelona and Germany and Bayern Munich and tap into existing club duos, trios and quartets.

Liverpool and Arsenal's title winners in the 70s and late 80s were rarely offered the chance to collectively replicate their domestic success for England and Sven-Goran Eriksson never managed to fully incorporate United's Class of '92 in their prime.


But Hodgson can learn from both history and the current league standings to flood his side with Tottenham and Leicester players; five from one and two from the other.

Like Sir Alf Ramsey, he can lead a trophy charge with the banners of a couple of key clubs.

Tottenham's increasingly famous five of Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Harry Kane may lack the international experience of other contenders for their positions, but boast superior form.

Like Danny Drinkwater and Jamie Vardy at Leicester, they are secure in their consistency and will benefit further from the familiar faces around them.

The alternatives - James Milner, Adam Lallana, Walcott and Danny Welbeck - have all gained international exposure without mounting a serious case for automatic selection.

Hodgson persisted with the tried and tested and they limped, wheezing and apologising, out of one tournament after another.

Without a trace of irony, the England manager yesterday discussed how the late Johan Cruyff coached the game, with an emphasis on youth, attack and spontaneity. Well, Hodgson might as well give it a go now.

Pick the kids plus Vardy, who retains the pace of a teenage cheetah, and stick with them all the way to Paris.

Even if the selections fail, defeat will still be more entertaining than the traditional dying of England's dinosaurs.

Our columnist picks his best England 11



Age: 23

With Joe 22 Hart injured, the Stoke goalkeeper has earned the right to prove himself as an able deputy for Euro 2016




The left back has taken too long to live up to his early potential, but he’s been terrific this season and has a good understanding with the left-sided Eric Dier and Dele Alli.




The early-season speculation affected his game a little, but Stones has been less consistent in an erratic Everton side. That said, he’s more reliable compared to Gary Cahill.




If every Red Devil had been anywhere near as reliable as Smalling, then Manchester United would be challenging for the title.




This is the toughest call as Liverpool’s Nathaniel Clyne has also impressed, but the Spurs connection gives Walker the nod. He has an excellent “you stay, I go” understanding with Rose.




Practically a mirror image of Drinkwater, his defensive midfield partner, Dier’s progress this season has been remarkable. Reliable and rarely flustered, Dier wins the ball and gets it to Alli.




From second-stringer at Leicester to an England call-up, his progress has been phenomenal. He runs. He tackles. And he never stops doing either.




Playing at the head of a midfield three, Barker would get the Gazza role he covets, exploding forward to link the lines. But he needs to win games on his own, like Paul Gascoigne did.




Like a white-haired man in a penguin suit, the teenager conducts the orchestra like a veteran. He can drop back or flip places across the forward line to stretch fullbacks and separate centre backs.




At 29, he might have only one tournament in him, but England need only one. His pace, such a rarity in England players, earns him his selection. But he’d need to adapt to playing off Harry Kane’s shoulder.




Kane is rapidly becoming the most complete English centre forward since Alan Shearer. If he is sidelined in favour of Wayne Rooney at Euro 2016, it won’t just be a travesty. It’ll be unforgivable.

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Mueller: Terror threat doesn't faze Germany

Thomas Mueller says the Germany squad remain unfazed by the threat of terrorism, ahead of tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) high-profile friendly against England in Berlin in the wake of the Brussels attacks.

The world champions host Roy Hodgson's Three Lions, with a crowd of around 72,000 expected at Berlin's Olympic Stadium before the Germans play Italy four days later in Munich.

Security will be tight for both games in the wake of Tuesday's bomb attacks on Brussels' airport and metro system which killed 31 people.

"We feel that we are well protected but, of course, anything can always happen," said Mueller. "However, we are convinced the security forces are doing a good job."

Germany were affected by the terror attacks last November in Paris, having had to spend the night in the Stade de France after their 2-0 defeat by the French.

Then, four days later, their home friendly against Holland in Hannover was called off on police advice amid fears of an attack. - AFP.

Dried fish, keropok sellers rejoice over Malaysia's high temperatures

BIG CATCH: Salted fish seller Zaib Alip drying fish at Kampung Pantai Chempaka in Kuantan, Pahang.

While most Malaysians are wishing for the heatwave to end, some are loving it.

One of them is Mr Chia Chen Teck, 71, who has been a dried shrimp manufacturer for more than 30 years in Kampung Nelayan Bagan Sekinchan in Selangor.

"The hotter the better! The weather is great for drying shrimp.

"At least 500kg of dried shrimp are processed daily. February and March are months for high shrimp yield," he said.

Mr Chia wakes up at 4am daily and works till night to take advantage of the weather, The Star reported.

Mr Kelvin Quay, 30, who runs a 20-year-old family business processing and distributing salted fish, is also loving the scorching heat.

"The hot weather is perfect for drying salted fish and it also results in better-tasting fish," he said.

He sells 20 to 30 types of fish such as mackerel, Spanish mackerel, ray and eel.

Up to 1,000kg of fish are set out to dry daily.

In Kuala Terengganu, the scorching heat is also putting smiles on the faces of keropok entrepreneurs.

Many of them, including those in small- and medium-sized enterprises in Pengkalan Setar, view the El Nino phenomenon a blessing in disguise as their keropok dries faster and their incomes are soaring.


Ms Nor Mahni Abd Ghani, 42, said the scorching heat helps to increase the quality of her products as well as their lifespan.

"The business that we are in needs this kind of weather, especially after the monsoon season, which dampens the business," she said.

Normally, Ms Nor Mahni said it would take about eight hours to completely dry the keropok, but now the process has been reduced by almost half the time.

Mr Zainab Awang, 65, who has been in the business for more than 30 years, said keropok produced during this hot weather would last longer and was less likely to become mouldy.

Similarly, in Kuantan, the scorching weather was welcomed by salted fish suppliers who were happy as their products would dry faster.

Mr Zaib Alip, 61, a villager from Kampung Pantai Chempaka, said it would normally take 10 hours to dry the salted fish, but in the last few days, it took eight hours or less.

However, Mr Zaib, who supplies salted fish to night markets, said it was also a matter of balance - the quality of the salted fish would drop if it was too dry.

"My customers do not like to buy overly dried salted fish.

"I have to set the time during the drying process to get it just right," he said.

The number of children, aged between six and 18 years old, who have been reported missing in Malaysia between 2014 and January this year, the Dewan Rakyat was told on Thursday. Of that number, about 10 per cent are still missing. Deputy Home Minister Datuk Masir Kujat said the police have prioritised these cases as they could be linked to human trafficking, reported The Star.

By the numbers 3,93

Why Singapore workers must adapt to changes

S'pore workers must learn to adapt, the way this SME successfully did

SUCCESS STORY: (Above) The company now operates from a seven-storey building in Tuas.
SUCCESS STORY: (Above) Mr Tan Tum Beng (in singlet) started Xin Ming Hua as a small shop in Kitchener Road in 1955..

The Government is providing a slew of measures to help SMEs stay afloat in the short term - from loan assistance to foreign worker levy.

In the longer term, it has announced measures to help SMEs innovate, increase productivity and grow.

But why spend so much effort and money on SMEs? How does it help Ah Seng, Dollah, Samy and D'Cruz, the men in the street?

The answer is simple: When SMEs flourish, Singaporeans benefit, too.

Today, SMEs employ more than 60 per cent of our workforce.

Although unemployment remained low at 1.9 per cent, redundancies increased last year. Some who were laid off also took longer to find jobs.

So SMEs can help pick up the slack.

Let me use Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat's example of Singapore firm Xin Ming Hua, which started off in 1955 as a humble machine repair and maintenance shop with two workers in Kitchener Road.

Today, it is one of the largest distributors of engines and power systems in Asia, with a staff strength of over 250 after acquiring two companies.

In the last financial year, it reported a revenue of $91.5 million and operates from a seven-storey building in Tuas.

This SME was highlighted by Mr Heng as an example of "vibrant enterprises that change and transform with the times".

That was the other aspect of the Budget speech that struck a chord - transformation.

Mr Heng used the word nearly 40 times during his Budget speech.

SMEs here have to do this to remain viable and keep or increase their workforce.

Transformation was a critical factor in Xin Ming Hua's growth, said its finance director, Ms Jessie Koh.

After the 1997 financial crisis, it had to diversify its business in terms of product offerings and geography.

In 2014, when oil markets started to wane, it acquired a company that specialised in integrated marine automation products so as to be exposed to more markets.

Productivity - the other buzzword of Budget speeches over the years - became important for Xin Ming Hua when it expanded.

Last year, it partnered Republic Polytechnic to adopt automation in its warehouse system and managed to achieve productivity gains of up to 75 per cent.

This SME's recipe for survival and success mirrors our own need for transformation.

In the short term, low-income Singaporeans can rely on schemes such as the Workfare Income Supplement to boost their wages.

But these measures can only be temporary.

Transformation is needed, as Mr Heng repeatedly emphasised.

This could mean upgrading our skills with our Skillsfuture credits, or simply being receptive to changes in the workplace.

Ms Koh admitted that there was resistance to new technology among her employees at first.

She said: "But after they realised it was going to benefit them, they bought into the idea. Innovation has to start from the ground up."

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After they realised it was going to benefit them, they bought into the idea. Innovation has to start from the ground up.

- Xin Ming Hua's finance director Jessie Koh on employees buying into the company's transformation

Enthusiast has been collecting bus artefacts for 18 years

25-year-old man's fascination with buses started in primary school

TREASURES: Mr Muhammad Zakaria Azmi has collected more than 500 pieces of bus-related items, but his most precious is a SBS2701Z bus number plate (above).
TREASURES: Mr Muhammad Zakaria Azmi has collected more than 500 pieces of bus-related items (above), but his most precious is a SBS2701Z bus number plate.
TREASURES: Mr Muhammad Zakaria Azmi has collected more than 500 pieces of bus-related items (above), but his most precious is a SBS2701Z bus number plate.

He has more than 500 pieces of bus-related items including guides, tickets and service plates.

Full-time national serviceman Muhammad Zakaria Azmi, 25 , has spent about $1,500 on these items, which he bought from scrapyards and bus depots.

Their prices ranged between $10 for a service plate and $300 for a digital service number display.

Mr Zakaria, who has a diploma in aerospace engineering, said: "I started collecting bus guides in my primary school days as I took a public bus to school every day.

"I'm fascinated by how these artefacts bring back memories for commuters.

"When my elderly uncles visit and see the artefacts, they start telling me about bus routes in the 1980s."

For Mr Zakaria, bus number plate SBS2701Z holds special meaning as it has his birthday, Jan 27, and initial "Z" on it.

It was given to him by a friend who picked it up from a scrapyard.

Mr Zakaria often chats with the driver when he takes a bus.

He said: "Not everyone can be a bus captain.

"It's interesting to know the captain's life story and how he started his job."

His favourite bus service is 176, which he took to get to his primary and secondary schools in the west.

He is an only child and his parents are supportive of his collection, he said.

Mr Zakaria, who lives with them in a five-room flat in Pandan Gardens, said: "My parents allowed me to use the master bedroom as my room so that I have space for my collection.

"They encourage me to pursue my hobby as long as I keep my room clean."


Together with a friend, Mr Zakaria is also working on building a remote-controlled bus model measuring 1m by 18cm by 30cm, which he hopes to commercialise in the future.

He has contributed some 15 items to the Our Bus Journey bus carnival.

He estimated that there are about 150 bus enthusiasts in Singapore, saying: "The community of bus enthusiasts is definitely growing.

"Some of them are influenced by friends.

"There are bus enthusiasts as young as seven years old."

Mr Zakaria feels commuters should be more courteous to bus drivers.

He said: "We often complain when bus services are delayed. But some reasons for their delay, such as road conditions, are inevitable.

"Simple gestures, such as saying thanks when a bus waits for you to catch it, can make a bus captain's journey more enjoyable."

I'm fascinated by how these artefacts bring back memories for commuters. When my elderly uncles visit and see the artefacts, they start telling me about bus routes in the 1980s.

- Full-time national serviceman Muhammad Zakaria Azmi


WHAT: Our Bus Journey bus carnival

ORGANISED BY: Land Transport Authority

WHERE: VivoCity, Outdoor Plaza

WHEN: Today and tomorrow, 11am to 8pm


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