Football: England's Roy Hodgson turns to iPads to keep players minds on the job

(THE GUARDIAN) - Video may have killed the radio star, but England's manager, Roy Hodgson, hopes it will help bond his squad together as he starts to plot a campaign that will earn him a contract beyond the European Championship to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

He has turned to technology to try to tackle one of the most intractable problems he and his predecessors have faced: He has recorded video messages on his players' iPads to remind them to keep England in their thoughts when they return to their club cocoon.

Given the five-month gap between last November's friendly victory over Scotland and next Friday's European Championship qualifier against Lithuania, Hodgson had hoped to get his squad together in January for a convivial dinner and tactics discussion.

The aim was to remind them that they wear two hats - an England one and a club one - and that they should not forget one while consumed by the soap opera of the other.

When Hodgson's plan was scuppered by the clubs, who were not keen on setting a precedent for England get-togethers outside international breaks, the FA's performance analysis manager, Andy Scoulding, turned to technology for the solution.

"The videos were put together pre-match, post-match and in training, and we worked very hard to identify some of the principles we want to remind them of," said Hodgson. "We sent videos to their iPads and got our message across, although we did not have the physical meeting because I had no right to call a physical meeting."

Whether the message got through to all of them remains to be seen, but Hodgson said his videotaped missives would help reinforce the tactical structure that he and his coaches were trying to instil, one for each of "five or six" groups of players.

"It will break that ice that we were concerned develops when you play your last game in November and you don't meet up again until March," said Hodgson. "It was all tactical, the tactical principles we've been wanting to work on."

If the iPad missives were a neat solution to defusing a potential row with clubs including Chelsea who were less than impressed with the idea of a get-together, there is always another potential banana skin around the corner.

Even on Thursday, as Hodgson was desperately trying not to reignite a previous club versus country row by treating questions about Daniel Sturridge's injury record with kid gloves, England's manager risked sparking a new one.

In questioning whether the swaggering newcomer Harry Kane should be flying halfway around the world at the end of the season at the behest of the Tottenham marketing department before an Under-21 European Championship in which the striker is keen to play, Hodgson again walked a tightrope that has become ever more precarious for England managers in the Premier League era.

"I'm happy we have tried our best to bridge the gap in this four months, I'm happy we are making it clear to them that you do wear two hats as a top-class international player," he said. "You can't ever forget your club side. But then if you want to play for England, and you want to be an England star, you can't forget England either."

The zest with which England have begun their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign has helped dispel some of the gloom that enveloped the camp less than nine months ago as they trudged away from the Brazilian World Cup party while most of their rivals were still taking off their coats.

But the memories of that disastrous tournament are hard to shift entirely and Hodgson must start melding a youthful side into one that can compete in France.

As Dan Ashworth, the technical director installed at St George's Park, continues with his project to introduce a common "DNA" across all of England's representative sides, Hodgson has strived to create a band of brothers feel within his squad.

He spoke on Thursday of the need to stand by Ross Barkley and Luke Shaw, young players who have experienced a dip after surfing the wave of hype that Kane is enjoying now.

Others who may have broken into this squad - such as Queens Park Rangers striker Charlie Austin, Southampton full-back Ryan Bertrand, Tottenham's Ryan Mason or Burnley striker Danny Ings - will have to wait their turn.

"Sometimes it's important that when you believe in people and you think they do have the potential and the quality that you're looking for as players, it's important not to jettison them at the first opportunity or the first time they lose their place in the team or if they're going through a rougher patch," said Hodgson. "If I think these guys could be very important in 2016 now is the time to show that confidence in them if you like."

Hodgson's eyes are already straying beyond the qualifying campaign. As such, he said that the FA was close to finalising a base for the squad for next summer.

Following traffic chaos in Rio de Janeiro at the World Cup, he had hoped to find one where his players could ride their bikes to training. But for health and safety reasons he has been told they cannot do so on public roads. Hodgson will be hoping that the seemingly smooth road to qualification remains less precarious.

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