Roy's big Rooney risk
Hodgson must stop pandering to fading skipper than his rising superstars
EURO 2016 FRIENDLY
(Chris Smalling 86)
Roy Hodgson still gives the impression that if he were presented with a sumptuous 10-course banquet, he'd settle for a bowl of lumpy white rice.
More worryingly, he's bemused by the reaction of his hosts, struggling to understand their irritation over his decision to pick something reliable but bland, rather than a feast for the senses.
He looked a man out of step on the eve of Euro 2012. With Euro 2016 less than a week away, his decision-making suggests his DNA was borrowed from a failed experiment at Jurassic World.
There is a very real concern that England's most promising crop of players in a generation is in the hands of a weak, risk-averse manager.
Hodgson will not drop Wayne Rooney and his loyalism may be England's undoing.
Or, to make an even bolder claim, if Mauricio Pochettino were the man currently wearing the Three Lions' blue blazer, England would win Euro 2016.
With Hodgson at the helm, they'll do well to progress beyond Group B.
Based on his farcical formation against Portugal, Hodgson's plodders will struggle to overcome Russian resistance or Marek Hamsik's Slovakia.
Even the one-man Welsh have less to fear if Hodgson continues to pander to a fading skipper rather than his rising superstars.
Perhaps it's an England thing, the unquestioned devotion to the old-boy network. Even the foreigners succumbed to misplaced loyalism.
Sven-Goran Eriksson persisted with an unfit David Beckham as he fell for his cult of celebrity, while Fabio Capello resigned in support of John Terry.
But Hodgson's exasperating need to find a position for Rooney somewhere, anywhere, tests the patience because if the manager removed the blinkers, he'd recognise that Christmas has come early.
Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane scored 49 goals between them last season. Had they continued playing until Christmas, they would not have scored against Portugal.
Vardy occasionally appeared at left back. Kane was spotted taking corners. At least he didn't have far to travel from the right touchline, where he spent his time recalling those halcyon days at Tottenham when he was deployed as a striker.
Never has a manager wasted his resources quite so extravagantly in a fawning bid to please a striker who no longer plays as a striker for his club.
If Louis van Gaal achieved anything during his comical turn at Manchester United, it was convincing Rooney that his best days would literally be behind him. Rooney withdrew 10 metres and saw his future as a No. 10.
But Hodgson's obvious problem is he already has a younger, superior No. 10 in Dele Alli, so to spare all parties further embarrassment, he shunted Alli to the left of the halfway line.
Alli stumbled around like Little Bo Beep in search of her sheep and offered the same attacking threat.
The Spurs midfielder, Kane and Vardy could all conceivably be played out of position at Euro 2016 to justify Rooney's inclusion.
As an apoplectic Alan Shearer pointed out, strikers and wingers are best played as strikers and wingers.
Reinventing the wheel or, even worse, using Rooney as a third wheel, may achieve nothing beyond both England and Hodgson's early departure.
What's more galling, perhaps, is Hodgson's genuine dismay at the criticism and his inability to understand a nation's frustration.
He insisted that Vardy and Kane could be utilised as split strikers in Euro 2016, as they were against Portugal.
Despite the niggling flaw in Hodgson's argument - i.e. that the experiment was an unmitigated disaster - he seems to suggest that Vardy, Kane and Rooney may be picked in positions that they have never previously played together.
With England's first fixture against Russia just days away, Hodgson either tinkers again or goes with the failed split-strikers system.
A nation's curtain-raiser in a major tournament is hardly a time for indecision.
Rooney will almost certainly start against Russia and the 30-year-old undoubtedly retains the pedigree, if no longer the pace, to make an impact.
But it's not about him. It's about Kane, Vardy and Alli all arriving in France with superior form and a greater understanding in key positions.
And yet, Hodgson will not be moved.
His tactical stubbornness suggests that the dramatic rise of both Vardy and Alli was almost an inconvenience, disrupting the preparations of a manager who doesn't like his plans messed with.
But if he benches either in-form player against Russia, or plays them out of position again, it won't be a tactical blunder. It'll be a travesty.