England must play without fear say Hodgson and Rooney
By Mitch Phillips
MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - England's exciting youngsters need to shake off the shackles of history and play without fear if they are to end 50 years without a major trophy at Euro 2016, coach Roy Hodgson and the squad's elder statesman Wayne Rooney said on Friday.
England take on Russia on Saturday having not reached a global or European final since their 1966 World Cup triumph and it is 20 years since they even made a semi-final, also on home soil, in the 1996 Euros.
Generations of England players have talked about how the pressure to break that drought has often been suffocating.
"You can't wipe the slate clean. We'll live with the fact it's been 50 years since we won a tournament but all we can do is hope the players approach this one with a relaxed attitude," Hodgson told a news conference at the sparkling all-white, fully redeveloped 67,000-capacity Velodrome.
"My fear as a coach would be that the players take anxiety on to the field, that they're weighed down when they go out and don't play as well as they like, imagining the headlines.
"We try to encourage them to believe in themselves, go out and play the football we've been trying to play, and we'll see what it brings."
Rooney has seen the best and worst of successive England campaigns since a starring performance in Euro 2004 and, having once been a youngster that no-one could ever have accused of lacking belief, he too was keen to stress the importance of building confidence.
"You can play without fear, naturally, younger lads do that. I did it when I broke into the team in 2003 but it's more of a case of the manager, coaching staff and me telling the players how good they are," he said. Continued...