England's Hodgson frustrated as stars go west

LONDON (AFP) - England manager Roy Hodgson on Sunday admitted his frustration that Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham have all planned exhibition matches thousands of miles away from home as soon as the Premier League season is completed this weekend.

Chelsea and Manchester City both head to America to play back-to-back games against each other in St Louis on May 23 and in New York on May 25 while Tottenham Hotspur play an exhibition match against Jamaica in the Bahamas the same week.

And that's not good news for Hodgson who has just announced a squad to play friendly internationals against the Republic of Ireland on May 29 and Brazil on June 2 - a squad that is already decimated by injury and that contains eight players from those three clubs.

"We've been very unlucky there," said Hodgson. "I'm not going to be hypocritical about it. We brought our games forward. Our official dates are on June 6 - in which case we would have been keeping the players through until at least June 7. But our thought was let's do it as quickly as possible after the league season if we can, and get the players back home for a long rest.

"My thinking, which is obviously based on having been a club manager for a good number of years, is that they'll probably want a few days after the season ends.

"They're not going to want to go straight from end-of-season to us - so let them have a week and then we'll get them together and we'll keep them all week. And then they're free.

"So we've been scotched a little bit by the three teams who've decided to go on long, post-season tours. Because of course it's made it, particularly with the first match, a little bit difficult. Some of the players will only have been back a few days when we've got to play.

"And also we're scotched to some extent that all the three teams have decided to go far west - America and Bahamas - so they're going back and forward on these long journeys. But once again that's the situation we find ourselves in. We can't dictate to clubs what they do." England are already without stars such as captain Steven Gerrard and midfielder Jack Wilshere, who are due to undergo operations as soon as the season is completed, as well as injured players such as Chris Smalling and Ashley Young.

So Hodgson is unlikely to be in a position to grant recovery time to anyone suffering jet lag.

But he isn't, of course, the first England manager to suffer such frustrations.

For many years there have been discussions over whether English players, who play almost exclusively in the brutally fast and furious Premier League, will ever be able to perform to their full potential in World Cups and European Championships when they so often end the season injured or tired - or both.

With that in mind, Hodgson has continued to campaign for a mid-season break - even though the possibility of exhibition matches abroad in January would surely rear its head even if he was able to win his argument.

The reality, however, is that England will just have to cope with tiredness and injury for the foreseeable future; so perhaps Hodgson's only real calling card is to campaign against a growing trend for players to pull out of international squads with relatively routine injuries or even because they don't expect to play.

"I think every game you play as an England player is a great opportunity," he insisted.

"We must not forget that because if we're not careful we're going to lose sight of the fact that the Premier League is a fantastic league, and that's something quite fantastic. The Champions League, the Europa League, they're big too. But international football is up there apart.

"You've only got to wait for the World Cups or the European Championships to come around to realise how vitally important people regard their national team. It really brings people together.

"So during my time as manager I will always be preaching 'you should never in any way debase the chance to play for England'. And even if you're just lucky enough to get one game, that should be something which should keep you going in your football life for a long time, and give you photographs and stories to tell your grandchildren."

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