Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's a Serious Matter for Roy despite Friendly Ire; Plenty Bemoan the International Break but England Boss Says Upcoming Fixtures Will 'Sharpen the Mind'. James Olley Reports

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It's a Serious Matter for Roy despite Friendly Ire; Plenty Bemoan the International Break but England Boss Says Upcoming Fixtures Will 'Sharpen the Mind'. James Olley Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley

THERE was a lengthy conversation between Roy Hodgson and Arsene Wenger prior to England's first training session this week and it is not a stretch to imagine the former stressing the importance of upcoming games against Chile and Germany.

This particular international break has come at a time when intrigue in the Premier League intensified after Manchester United narrowed the spread of the top eight teams to just six points with victory over Arsenal at Old Trafford.

Despite the domestic hiatus, Wenger was still out in the bracing November air at London Colney to conduct training for those Gunners not selected for their country just yards away from where England began their own preparations following a swift relocation from their usual St George's Park base due to the presence of a virus.

He met Hodgson, who later insisted they had a general "football chat" but Wenger's scepticism of these international breaks is deep rooted, even before considering the inclusion of a player such as Jack Wilshere as he continues his search for optimum fitness.

Wenger's indifference may be reflected by others but the Football Association are still expecting at least 60,000 supporters to make the journey to Wembley tomorrow night for the first of just three games in which Hodgson must fine tune his travelling party to the World Cup in Brazil. Hodgson is in genial mood these days, released from the pressure of qualification, but he remains keen at every turn to underline why this period is vital despite the finals still seven months away.

"Chile are formidable opponents and the test that they will provide is exactly what we need at this stage of our preparation," wrote Hodgson in his programme notes for tomorrow's game. "I understand that for all our players these international fixtures fall within a time when they are playing a lot of football. However, as a national team coach with extremely limited access to my players, I must exercise my right to access them and emphasise the importance of facing Chile and Germany in the scheme of our preparation. …

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