The England manager is working on a vision for the future that hinges on an open-minded approach to picking his squad
Once the grovelling public apology to Rio Ferdinand had been issued, and the simmering sense of regret over John Terry's absence briefly revisited, Roy Hodgson attempted to move things along. Enough was enough, and lines had to be drawn under a furore that has divided those at the pinnacle of the English game. The only pity was that, with the room hushed, the audience split and the awkward call to the Manchester United defender to come hardly phoning a friend, the national manager still opted to lurch into full-scale Chris Tarrant mode.
"The future's the future, but ours has to have a certain amount of vision," he offered as he considered what lies ahead. "There are four steps and, just like in that quiz show I rather rate, 'Who Wants to be a millionaire?', you have to put things in order. First of all we have qualifying games. Then, if we're lucky, we qualify. Then we go to Brazil. Then we win it. We're still at point No1, trying to qualify, but we do have a vision, even if Brazil is two years further down the line."
In truth, the chances of prising a cheque for seven-figures from Tarrant feels rather more realistic than England departing Rio in 2014 as world champions.
Yet this was the future compartmentalised, a two-year task put into context, with Ferdinand's continued omission all part of a process of rejuvenation. The uncapped Celtic goalkeeper, Fraser Forster, will be assessed first-hand. Kieran Gibbs, impressive for Arsenal to date this term, returns aiming for a first cap in 23 months and his club-mate, Carl Jenkinson, will be included for next month's friendly against Sweden, fitness permitting. Aaron Lennon, a forgotten man since the dismal goalless draw with Algeria in Cape Town in 2010, is also back. And that vision also involved a call up for Ryan Shawcross on his 25th birthday as Terry's immediate replacement among the quartet of centre-backs in contention.
Ferdinand may have reason to disagree, but Hodgson clearly has an open mind when selecting his squad. He has now picked 42 different players since taking up the reins in May, and has gone on to use 34 of them. That feels like an expansive policy. Shawcross had been courted by the Wales manager, Chris Coleman, having spent five years in education in Buckley, Flintshire and represented the Welsh under-15s, only for the defender reiterate a desire to represent England in talks last month.
His reward for consistent form at Stoke is a chance to earn the cap that eluded him when he was selected for Fabio Capello's squad for the friendly against Egypt in March 2010.
"He has developed since then, and he's captain of Stoke these days," said Hodgson. "When you captain a team, it shows you have certain qualities. Those running Premier League clubs are not stupid: he's clearly got a lot of qualities. He's got centre-back qualities and, like all centre-backs, he'll be accused from time to time of overstepping the mark. But that would be a harsh criticism. I've not seen that myself."
Shawcross's inclusion is reflective of forward-thinking, as is the reliance upon players such as Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott and Gary Cahill – the latter two arguably not first-choices for their club sides this season – rather than a return to established pedigree such as Ferdinand. The England manager reiterated his belief that it would be foolish to select players with such weighty experience if the best they could hope for is a place on the bench.
It will be interesting to see if the same applies in future to Frank Lampard, who is 34 and will probably captain the team against San Marino next Friday. The veteran would not necessarily expect to start in the national team's strongest midfield these days, particularly if Jack Wilshere returns to previous levels as he re-establishes his credentials after more than a year in the treatment room. "On Jack, I echo Arsène Wenger's sentiments: it's great to see him back, but he's had a 14-month absence," said Hodgson. "It's naive to think he'll walk back into being what he was.
"With regards to Frank, I don't have a hard and fast policy: I would suggest that if a player loses his place in the team after as good as 100 games, he might not want to be a squad member. It might not even be a decision I have to take. If that player decides he doesn't want to be a squad member, that's a decision I'll have to make. At the moment, Frank is in the team and doing well at Chelsea."
By the time England next play a competitive fixture, in March, the hope is that there will be further competition for places, particularly at centre-half where the absence through injury of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling limits options. "It's an area we'll get stronger," added Hodgson. "We have Michael Carrick in this squad, who can always go back there, particularly in a game where we're enjoying more of the ball. But I believe Jones and Smalling are very interesting centre-halves, and our current 'plight' – that might be too strong a word – could rapidly change by next March.
"It'd be nice to have a few more options at centre-back, but by March we could be arguing we have a good selection." By then, Hodgson will hope the furore over Terry and Ferdinand will no longer be on the agenda. This is a manager ever keen to look forward rather than back.