Roy's Andy start: Hodgson passes, Carroll scores… a good day for new England boss
22:26 GMT, 24 May 2012
The first open training session of the Roy Hodgson era and first impressions were not terribly encouraging.
It was the sight of Gary Neville pulling on a bib to make up the numbers in a practice match; not to mention one particular instruction from the new England manager.
'You don't have to just play short passes,' he told them. 'Don't be afraid to knock it up to the big man.'
Nice touch: Hodgson puts his best foot
But the longer the session went on in the sunshine at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday, the more impressive it became.
It was fascinating to watch Neville coaching Andy Carroll one-to-one while trying to mark him at the same time, and there was just something pleasing about seeing an England manager taking charge of a session without any communication issues.
Hodgson is hands-on; vocal and full of enthusiasm with plenty of words of encouragement, not least for Carroll.
'Well done, son,' he screamed when Carroll met a super ball from Steven Gerrard with a finish that proved too good for Joe Hart.
Impressing: Andy Carroll (centre) goes past Scott Parker (left) and Phil Jagielka (right) during training
At one stage he also converted a pass from Hodgson, the 64-year-old displaying a bit of the skill that once endeared him to supporters at Maidstone United.
And he was right when he told them to launch the occasional long ball.
The players were clearly trying a bit too hard to impress their new boss when a direct pass to Carroll was the best option.
Neville was in hysterics by the end. Not, by his own admission, in the best shape of his life, he looked utterly exhausted and understandably so.
John Terry struggled against Carroll recently, so a player who retired in February last year was always going to find it tough.
In hysterics: Gary Neville (left) enjoys a laugh with Steven Gerrard
'He looked tired before we even started to be fair,' said Joleon Lescott, a remark that sounded like payback for being told by Neville to 'stay away from the chocolate cake' at the first squad meal on Wednesday night.
The newest member of the England coaching staff did a fine job though.
Training day: Hodgson keen to get on with it
There were lots of instructions to the players during the practice match, just as there were plenty of points he then made in an animated conversation with Hodgson and Ray Lewington at the end of the session.
Already you can see Neville becoming a valuable member of Hodgson's staff.
He played simply because Hodgson was short of defenders and while that's fair enough with respect to the injured players and those recovering from the physical demands of a 120-minute Champions League final, it does raise the question of why Terry is not here in Manchester this week.
Terry did not play in Munich because of suspension, so why the need for him to report on May 29 as well
It meant that Lescott was partnered with Phil Jagielka in what looked like it might be the team come Saturday night's friendly in Norway, which in turn means a member of the standby squad could be starting one of the two friendlies Hodgson has before meeting France on June 11.
In fairness to Hodgson, it would not be a first.
Players have appeared in warm-up games in the past only to be left behind for the tournament.
But it still seems unnecessary when Terry has not played since May 13.
Hodgson nevertheless seemed happy.
He believes in working at a high intensity for 35 minutes, this being the maximum amount of time players can absorb information and instructions before the brain starts to switch off.
But he seemed to get his points across well and Carroll's performance excited him.
Given the fitness concerns over Danny Welbeck and the fact that Wayne Rooney will miss the group encounters with France and Sweden because of the red card he received in Montenegro, Carroll's return to form is timely.
New vision: The England manager has a word with Gerrard and Carroll and (below) talks to the squad before a 10-a-side game, in which Gary Neville played too
'Andy Carroll is a threat in any game,' said Lescott. 'And it's nice to see him getting the praise he deserves over the last few weeks of the season. I'm sure his confidence is high going into the tournament.
'For part of the session today I had to deal with him and he's a handful. He always is.
'He has great ability, and not just in the air. International football is not just about that aerial threat but not many teams have that presence in the air and he brings that to the squad as well. But after the finish to the season he's had, and getting the call-up to the squad, his confidence has to be high. This has to be the best he's felt about himself.'
Lescott welcomes the appointment of Neville, having played at Everton with his brother Phil.
'Gary gets his message across and addresses everyone in the squad individually,' he said.
'He passes on his experience of games he's been involved in over the years. So I think it's a great addition.
Heat is on: Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker warm up
'He hasn't addressed me yet. He just told me to stay away from the chocolate cake. No, seriously, I know Phil better than Gary but they're both natural born winners.'
Training, Lescott said, has also been enjoyable so far.
'Yesterday was more about tempo,' he said. 'Obviously we had all been off for 10 days or so, so it was more about tempo and getting the stiffness out of the legs. Today was more about strategy, about the defensive unit, not just the back four but starting from the front.
'We all knew what Fabio wanted but it helps with Roy being English.'
It was a 10-a-side game, but at one stage one team pointed to what it might be on Saturday.
Rob Green in goal, a back four of Phil Jones, Jagielka, Lescott and Leighton Baines; in front of them Theo Walcott, Gerrard, Scott Parker and Ashley Young and in front of them Carroll.
If you add Gareth Barry, an England team could be organised in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Gerrard positioned behind Carroll.
And Neville on the bench with the coaching staff.