The Under-21 manager had talked about wanting "more support" from the England manager but none has been forthcoming
One day last week Roy Hodgson was invited to Westminster to speak to the all-parliamentary football group and one of the MPs put an idea to him that felt more in keeping with Yes, Prime Minister and the motion to rename the British sausage the "emulsified high-fat offal tube". Why, Hodgson was asked, if he wanted to bring through more young players into the England team, as he has talked about recently, did he not impose a limit on age? And not only that, how about deliberately going low with the cut-off point? Nobody 25 or over, was the suggestion, and let's see if it catches on.
It's some theory. Thirteen of the 22 players Hodgson has named for the friendlies against Brazil and the Republic of Ireland fall outside that bracket. At a strike, it means Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Joe Hart, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick, James Milner and Ashley Cole would be excluded from the World Cup. So would Leighton Baines, Joleon Lescott, Gary Cahill, Ben Foster, Glen Johnson, Phil Jagielka, Ashley Young and Jermain Defoe.
If nothing else, it might have spared us all the palaver about whether Rio Ferdinand and John Terry will ever play for England again. Yet there aren't too many teams, as Hodgson politely tried to point out, who have gone very far with such a policy and it would be an interesting day's newspapers, to say the least, if he announced a squad with Theo Walcott and Andy Carroll as its senior players and Alex McCarthy suddenly promoted to first-choice goalkeeper. Hodgson is, however, clearly giving more thought to lowering the age of the squad and that at least feels like a start for those of us who have been saying since Euro 2012 that it was the right way to go.
A group of football correspondents met him in Amsterdam before the Europa League final and it was not just the usual names he reeled off when he talked about easing out the old guard and not being scared to embrace a younger generation. Hodgson identified Aston Villa's Matthew Lowton and Ashley Westwood as players he would monitor closely next season. Wilfried Zaha, Raheem Sterling, Nathaniel Chalobah and Thomas Ince were all mentioned and he made it clear he had not eliminated Jordan Henderson from his thinking. It is true there is not a David Beckham or Paul Scholes among that number but there is Jack Wilshere and, as Hodgson pointed out, the older generation didn't exactly pull up any trees for England in major tournaments anyway.
Someone mentioned the fact Gareth Barry had drifted out of the picture and Hodgson chose his words carefully. He said Barry had done well for Manchester City this season and it had reminded him that he was a good player. Then he left it at that. The subtext was clear: move on.
Actions speak louder than words, of course, and it is still some way from Gary Neville's recommendation, before his recruitment to the coaching staff, that England should go exclusively with younger players or, as he put it, those "not tarnished by failure and cynicism". But it was still encouraging to hear.
"We aren't short," Hodgson said. "We don't need to keep shackling ourselves with what we have done in the past. I think we have to take a chance elsewhere." All of which makes reasonable sense bearing in mind that England, on Hodgson's watch, are not just thinking about next year's World Cup but also the European Championship in France in 2016. But then are the times when maybe a little bit more flexibility is needed and it is not always entirely easy to understand the England manager's logic.
Next month the European Under-21 Championship takes place over two weeks in Israel. There are only eight teams involved and, without wishing to stray too far from the basic principles that should be applied whenever England are involved in tournament football (rule one: never be over-confident), Stuart Pearce's side have the kind of record over the past couple of seasons that entitles them to be more confident than usual.
In the past 18 months they have beaten Belgium, Serbia (twice), Sweden, Romania, Norway, Azerbaijan, Austria and Northern Ireland. They have scored 22 times in the process and, most remarkably of all, not conceded a single goal. Israel is the chance to get the tournament experience that, as any long-serving England player will tell you, can be invaluable for the big competitions. More than that, it is about actually trying to bring back a trophy and – here's the thing – developing the winning culture that simply does not exist among the higher age group. To do that, Pearce is the same as any international manager at any level. He thinks he should be allowed to take his best possible squad.
It is a pity, then, that Hodgson has decided it would be better for Phil Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to go with the seniors on their four‑day trip to Rio de Janeiro. Not a bad place for a football match, undeniably, but still an end‑of‑season friendly, almost certainly to be played at two-thirds pace, with the likelihood that neither Jones nor Oxlade‑Chamberlain will start. Pearce, anticipating what was coming, had talked a while back about wanting "more support" from Hodgson. As it has turned out, none has been forthcoming.
Sticking up for Pearce, I appreciate, is not particularly fashionable at a time when his run of results over the past couple of seasons has not been able to shift the popular perception of him as a manager lacking refinement. You may have noticed, for example, that Pearce barely warrants a mention for the various jobs that will be available this summer, even though he is out of contract at the end of June and there is absolutely no sign of the FA giving him another one.
Hodgson was asked whether he would like Pearce to remain in his current role and would say only that he considered it "unfair" to seek his opinion when it was a matter for the FA. The invitation was there, in other words, to offer him some backing, and he declined it. And we probably all know what that means if Pearce cannot win this tournament at his fourth attempt. "Let me down easy," to borrow a line from one of the Stranglers songs that punk fan Pearce knows so well.
It is just a pity that amid all this talk about doing the right thing for the younger players, England's Under-21s have the chance of returning from Israel with a rare trophy and Hodgson has not been able to help.
That would be a more relevant question the next time the all-parliamentary football group invites him to Westminster.
Sir Alex Ferguson's final press conference as Manchester United's manager was full of levity and humour. One of his old sparring partners at the Sun presented him with a cake in the shape of a hairdryer. There was a card and a bottle of expensive plonk and it reminded me of the time Ferguson turned 65 and the reporters on his beat were deliberating about whether or not to get him anything.
Things were pretty strained at the time and it went to a vote. Two abstained, one refused "unless it's Blue Nun" and six chipped in a fiver each, despite collective misgivings that it made everyone look a bit desperate. Which, unfortunately, was very true.
Ferguson liked his presents anyway. "I've never borne grudges," he said. "In all the times I've banned you I've never borne a grudge to anyone. I don't think it's my style."
And yet, even in the warm afterglow of his retirement announcement – a news event so seismic that, as Private Eye noted, even the Sun's Page Three girl was shifted to page nine, "the true sign of a national tragedy" – he still managed to conjure up one last falling‑out. This one was with David Meek, his ghostwriter for the past 26 years and previously described by United's manager as "part of the fabric of this club".
Hence the absence of any programme notes for the game against Swansea last weekend, replaced instead by Ferguson's retirement statement.
Somehow it felt fitting: only Fergie could refuse to take part in a commemorative programme – "Thank You Sir Alex" – for his very last game at Old Trafford.
That was a classy touch from Roberto Mancini to take out a full-page advertisement in the Manchester Evening News on Saturday to say "ciao" to the Manchester City supporters. What a shame there are so many people inside the club who want to tarnish what he achieved in better times.
Mancini has certainly taken a fair old kicking over the past week even before we get to the fact that not a single City player on Twitter has deemed his sacking worthy of a mention. It has been an extraordinary series of leaks and allegations, and what a delicious irony that the former kit-man who got in first, describing the Italian as "arrogant, vain and self-centred", did so from a Twitter account where in his profile picture he is clutching a bottle of champagne from the day Mancini's team won the title.
This column has made it clear that Mancini was vulnerable because of a) the politics at City and b) the fact they were having such an undistinguished season. Only the naive could possibly have believed otherwise. All the same, the spreading of poison reflects well on nobody.