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LEIGHTON BAINES capped his first competitive start for England with his first international goal last night – and his club teammate Sylvain Distin says the Blues left-back deserves a greater role with the national team.
Baines rounded off England’s 5-0 stroll in Moldova with a deflected free-kick last night.
And Distin feels his friend Baines, who made his debut for England against Egypt in 2010 but has played only friendlies since, has long been deserving of a bigger role for his country.
“I think he’s deserved it for a long time,” he said. “Even without playing [a competitive international] you already think he has that experience.
“Maybe mentally it’s going to be a big boost for him to play but football-wise I think the guy is already very mature.”
Regular left-back Ashley Cole was forced out of the squad for England’s first 2014 World Cup qualifier due to an ankle injury.
Cole will be 33 when the Rio tournament comes around, and Distin added: “It’s difficult for me to compare both players because I only see Ashley Cole from bits of games that I see on TV, from highlights and from when we play against him, but I see Bainesy working every day.
“It wouldn’t be fair of me to try to compare both players but from what I’ve seen of Bainesy, he’s an amazing player.
“The guy impresses me. He’s always there, always working hard, always doing more than his job. He has qualities going forward, defending, everything.”
Another Blues player, Belgium’s Kevin Mirallas, featured in his country’s 2-0 win over Wales in Cardiff last night.
And going by what he’s seen on the training pitch, Distin feels Mirallas can help share Nikica Jelavic’s goalscoring burden this season.
Mirallas, 24, scored his first Everton goals in last week’s Capital One Cup victory over Leyton Orient and has also been a handful in training, according to the Frenchman.
He said: “He scores some [impressive] goals. Every time we’ve got small games on, small five-a-sides, he scores a lot of goals. One-on- one as well, he can eliminate players quite easily.
“We’ll have to wait and see how he adapts but so far, so good. He seems to fit in really well but the Premier League is so different. You can’t judge players too quickly.”
EVERTON have been refused permission to sign midfielder Vadis Odjidja Ofoe by Fifa, after his club were late filing documents on transfer deadline day.
The ruling means David Moyes has been thwarted in his attempt to bolster his midfield in frustrating circumstances, with the Blues seemingly being penalised for errors by Club Brugge last Friday.
Moyes will now assess his options in December before deciding whether to make a fresh bid for the 23-year-old, and in the meantime the club will consider whether they can appeal the ruling. An Everton spokesman insisted the club was not at fault: "The decision comes despite both the Football Association and Premier League giving their full support to the loan agreement and Everton lodging the relevant signed paperwork in advance of the international transfer deadline on August 31.
"The club will consider all available options before making any further comment."
But Ofoe blamed Everton when he took to Twitter to write: “I would be lying if I said I didn't want to play in the Premier League, but now we need to look ahead.
“I knew there was a chance that the transfer wouldn't go through since Everton was late requesting the transfer.”
FROM pride of Everton to pride of Merseyside. The Paralympians are rightly winning all the plaudits at the moment – but Steve Johnson is the original ‘super-human’.
Those impressive ads for the paralympic games coverage on Channel Four rightly emphasise the extraordinary qualities of the disabled athletes taking part, and Steve Johnson fits that bill perfectly.
Now Everton’s inspirational Community’s disability manager has scooped the top prize at the Liverpool Echo’s Pride of Merseyside Awards.
A glamorous ceremony at Liverpool's Hilton Hotel saw Steve named ‘Pride of Merseyside’ for his outstanding contribution to the local community.
Steve joined the Blues’ official charity in 2003 and has worked tirelessly to make the Club's disability programme one of the most influential and iconic of its kind in the world.
Having lost his leg in a football accident in 1985, Steve subsequently discovered amputee football.
It was a sport still very much in its infancy back then, but it re-ignited his love for the game.
Just three years later he received his first call up to the England national team and he went on to win over 130 international caps, captaining the Three Lions for over 20 years, lifting three World Cups and being voted ‘World Amputee Footballer of the Year’ in 1999.
After retiring from the playing side of the game, Steve decided to gain sports qualifications and duly picked up his UEFA coaching badges, a Sports Science degree and a HND in Sports Science and Disability Studies, all of which have enabled him to transform the lives of other disabled people across the north west of England.
Steve’s influence and vision for disability football now means Everton in the Community provides over 10,000 football opportunities for disabled children and adults each year, while the disability programme engages with more than 60 schools in the Merseyside area alone.
Evertonians are rightly proud of their players – but they should be every inch as proud that men like Steve represent their club.
For more information about the disability programme, call Everton in the Community on 0151 530 5253.
BARRY HORNE: EVERTON’S frustrating defeat by West Brom last Saturday was a classic example of how you should take nothing for granted in the Premier League.
I didn’t see that result coming and honestly thought we’d get three points at the Hawthorns.
I’m sure David Moyes never underestimates his opponent or took anything forgranted but sometimes for players it is hard to get that message across totally.
Nobody ever does it consciously.
No player ever wakes up and says ‘I’m in for an easy game today’, it’s more of a subconscious thing, but at the highest level of competition a few per cent off focus across the team can make a huge difference.
I think there were one or two individual performances which in light of what has gone before you’d highlight in that category.
I don’t really want to single him out particularly but Marouane Fellaini (inset) typified that.
In a week when people were describing him as a colussus he failed to shine.
To be considered an unplayable great you have to do it in almost every game. You need to be better than average in eight out of 10 games.
Even Steven Pienaar apologised after last Saturday, but generally over his time at Everton in the last 60 games or so you would say that he’s been very good or better in 50 of them.
That’s the type of consistency that your main men need to attain.
Despite the set-back I don't think anyone should get carried away. All of the players have still got it in them to make this a tremendous start to the season.
The break before the game with Newcastle gives a pause, time to reflect on what went wrong and then carry on with the exciting form in time for the Magpies.
FIFA have refused to ratify the loan transfer of Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe to Everton from Club Brugge.
The Toffees agreed a late deal a week ago and believed the required documentation had been submitted just before last Friday's 11pm deadline.
However, the move required the green light from world football's governing body and a week later FIFA have decided not to rubber-stamp the deal for the 23-year-old midfielder.
Everton said in a statement on the club's official website: "The decision comes despite both the Football Association and Premier League giving their full support to the loan agreement and Everton lodging the relevant signed paperwork in advance of the international transfer deadline on August 31."
Everton confirmed the club will consider "all available options" before discussing the issue further.
Bordeaux midfielder Yoan Gouffran is a cut price January target for Fulham, Everton and Aston Villa.
Gouffran, 26, is out of contract next summer and the French club want at least £3m in January rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer.
Cuddled up on the sofa in front of the TV, the Neville family have been cheering on a new generation of sporting heroes.
Little Isabella squealed with joy as Hannah Cockcroft raced to 100m and 200m wheelchair gold.
And now she can’t wait to get her very own set of wheels – a very different story from just a few days ago.
The superhuman achievements of all our Paralympians have inspired the whole nation, but they’ve proved to be life-changing for Everton captain Phil Neville’s eight-year-old daughter.
Isabella has cerebral palsy just like her new hero “Hurricane” Hannah.
She was born 10 weeks prematurely after suffering a stroke in the womb.
The condition affects all Isabella’s limbs and she wears splints on her legs and sometimes uses a walking frame.
But Isabella is a Neville through and through. She loves sport and is determined that whatever her 10-year-old brother Harvey does, she will do too, and has always refused to even contemplate using a wheelchair – until now.
Mum Julie says: “Watching the Paralympics has been a real inspiration for Isabella.
"Although she can walk, if we are going to be out all day or walking long distances she just can’t manage.
“She is getting too big for the special needs buggy we have so she is due to go for a wheelchair assessment in a few weeks.
“She has been dreading it and was adamant that she doesn’t want a wheelchair.
“But watching the Paralympics has made Isabella realise there is no stigma attached to using a wheelchair.
"She sees the Paralympians as heroes and people to look up to. They have made her realise that being in a wheelchair is not a barrier to achieving things in life.
“For Isabella to see Hannah Cockcroft, who has cerebral palsy just like she does, win a Paralympic gold medal is just priceless.
“Isabella said she didn’t realise wheelchairs could go so fast, and even Harvey says he wants one now.
"Watching all the wheelchair athletes has made Isabella so much more accepting that she sometimes needs to use a wheelchair.
"Because she goes to a mainstream school, she doesn’t see a lot of other children with disabilities, so watching the Paralympics has made her realise there are lots of other people out there just like her.
"Not only that, these athletes are achieving great things.”
Phil and Julie are convinced the amazing sporting exploits of the Paralympians have shown Isabella and a generation of children with disabilities they can achieve anything they desire.
Julie says: “It is the first major sporting event she can totally relate to because she’s seeing athletes who have disabilities just like she does.
“While we all cheered on Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis in the Olympics, for Isabella the Paralympics is the main event.
“Before the games started she asked so many questions, ‘Would the athletes have cerebral palsy? Would they use walking frames or wear splints like she does?’ For the first time in her life Isabella has seen elite disabled athletes competing, achieving their dreams and reaching for the stars.
“Obviously sport is such a big part of life in our family. We all go to Everton every week to watch Philip, Harvey plays football, and both children enjoy all different sporting activities.
“They love swimming and the Paralympic swimmers really caught their imagination. Isabella’s legs are her weak spot, so when she swims she uses her upper body much more than her legs. She couldn’t believe that people can swim without arms.
“We have never told Isabella she can’t do something because of her disability.
"We have always instilled into her she can do anything she wants to do if she puts her mind to it.
"But when it comes to sport she is never competing on a level playing field. She goes to a mainstream school and sports day is a nightmare.
"She always joins in and tries her hardest, but no matter what, she always comes last. It is heartbreaking.
“The Paralympics has shown her that people with disabilities can become elite athletes and achieve sporting success, and for us that is priceless.”
The Neville family know the sacrifices that have to be made to reach the top.
Phil and brother Gary played football for England, while sister Tracy represented her country at netball.
But Phil is the first to admit their efforts pale in comparison to our Paralympians.
“It is really humbling to know how they must have gone through the pain barrier and used every ounce of determination to reach the top in their chosen sports,” he says.
Two of Everton’s disability footballers are competing at London 2012 – Roy Turnham, 27, who is visually impaired, and 17-year-old George Fletcher, who has cerebral palsy.
Phil says: “What we able-bodied people often don’t understand is the sheer extra effort it can take people with disabilities to do everyday tasks.
"For Isabella, an hour’s playtime at school might take the same effort as it would for you or I to work out in the gym for four hours.
"But she is so determined she’ll never give up.”
When Isabella was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months her parents were afraid many doors had closed for her.
Phil says: “We were told she’d probably never walk but through sheer determination she took her first steps at the age of three. We were also told she would probably never swim.
“But now at the age of eight she has just been awarded a certificate for doing 82 lengths of the pool and was invited to go for GB swimming trials.
"She was really nervous so we are hoping watching the Paralympics will give her the confidence to go for it.”
Julie adds: “Our Paralympians are proof people with disabilities can achieve fantastic sporting success.
"But even more than that, they are an inspiration to everyone, not just people with disabilities.
“Everyone has hurdles they have to overcome in life, and what these amazing athletes show us all is that you can achieve anything with sheer hard work and determination to succeed.”
Everton can make the Champions League this season, claims Blues legend Neville Southall.
Phil Neville has also targeted a top four finish after the club's superb start to the season.
Southall feels Nikica Jelavic has given Everton the goal-scoring threat they lacked and he firmly believes David Moyes' men can finish fourth ahead of the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool.
"I think they've got a chance of finishing fourth," said the Welshman, who was speaking ahead of the dinner at Goodison Park on September 28 to launch his autobiography, 'The Binman Chronicles'.
"I think Spurs will struggle and they will take time to settle under Andre Villas Boas. I don't think Arsenal are going to finish in the top four, Liverpool will also take a while and then you're just looking at Newcastle.
"Everton have got a good keeper, they're decent at the back, they're good in midfield and they can now score goals thanks to Jelavic.
"He's the big difference for me and he's similar to Rushie in that if you give him half a chance, he'll score. He will add 12 points on to their total this season."
Southall was part of Howard Kendall's famed side of the mid-80s, which won two league titles, the FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup, and says only Barcelona would have matched them.
"We were as good as anything I've seen before or since and the only team who would have worried us would have been Barcelona with Messi," he said.
* Neville Southall: The Binman Chronicles launch dinner is on Friday, September 28 in the Alex Young suite at Goodison. Tickets cost £55 and can be booked by contacting email@example.com.
In the lobby of a modern Cardiff hotel, Neville Southall is laying out his past, and his present. It is unique. Even in a profession as different as goalkeeping, Southall stood apart, infamously literally.
He was the perfectionist scruff, the superstar who cycled to training, the binman amateur who became a European great, the man who says his best performance for Wales came in a 7-1 defeat against Holland.
‘I was perceived to have eccentricities,’ he says.
Predictably unpredictable, Southall left school in the Seventies without a qualification but now teaches and mentors excluded children. His conversation weaves from Everton to Randolph Turpin to youth clubs and the bridge at Arnhem. He refers to Michael Gove, Dino Zoff and dysentery at the battle of Agincourt.
He considers a player who made a record 751 Everton appearances, earned a record 92 Wales caps, who won two Leagues titles, two FA Cups, a European Cup-winners’ Cup and was 1985 Footballer of the Year and sees ‘selfishness’.
But he is not being critical.
‘To be a professional sportsman you have to be selfish,’ Southall says. ‘You can’t do it at 95 per cent. You have to be dedicated. When Howard Kendall came back the last time he said to me, “Stop trying to be perfect”. I thought he was bonkers. Looking back I can understand why he said it.’
Southall has been looking back. Aged 53, 15 years after he last played for Everton and Wales, he has a flavoursome autobiography. It was to be called Blue Dragon until he saw a Chinese takeaway near Goodison Park of the same name. So Southall staged a competition among Everton fans. Hence we have The Binman Chronicles. It is as entertaining as the title suggests, though the Welsh FA may disagree.
Rubbish Keeper was another working title which Southall liked, as was Leaning On A Post.
Southall’s ‘selfish’ comments concerned the incident on the opening day of the 1990-91 season, when at half-time, with Everton 2-0 down to Leeds at Goodison Park, he sat against his woodwork rather than spending the break in the dressing room listening to manager Colin Harvey.
This was every bit the sensation then that it would be today. It is something everyone recalls about Southall, which he says is ‘not unfair. I did it’.
‘I was seen as different. Some thought that, others thought I was just stupid. I wasn’t.
‘That day people said I was bonkers, that I wanted a transfer. I thought I’d had a s*** first half and I just wanted to clear my head, that’s all. I’d done it before, though I’ve only ever found one person who remembers. It was at Plough Lane — the dressing room there was boiling and they put 52 sugars in the tea.
‘Colin didn’t know ’til he got home. He phoned me and he wasn’t happy. I was suspended for two weeks. I played the following Wednesday. It was nothing to do with Colin. It was purely about me. The thing is, you don’t have good days without having bad days. Even Bobby Charlton.’
What in part made Southall different can be traced to a childhood in Llandudno and his father Fred, who lied about his age to join the Paratroops and ended up wounded at Arnhem in 1944.
‘I wish you could see a picture of my dad,’ Southall says. ‘He was 21 at Arnhem, when he came back from the war he looked 65. He never talked about it. If there was a war film on one side, he’d turn it over. He never, ever had a go at the Germans; he slaughtered the Americans.
‘He had a massive scar down his chest where he was bayoneted, he never talked about that. “Yanks!” That’s all you’d hear him say. He had a Sten gun upstairs and he’d get it out now and again.
‘Apparently he was a really good footballer but I don’t think he’d watch football today. He was a man’s man. Once you’ve been to war, it must give you a different perspective on life.
‘Even watching the Olympics and Paralympics has, it’s put me off football. If you’re a footballer and you fall over, after these Paralympics, I’m embarrassed for you. Did you see the high jump? They got higher on one leg than I ever did on two. And footballers go from their £1million house to their £1m car to their £1m training ground. It’s embarrassing, isn’t it?’
Fred Southall’s local was run by Randolph Turpin, and the great boxer would visit the family home. But Neville never went the other way; he is teetotal. As he says, ‘Turpin’s pub, no way I’d go, that was proper drinking.’
The route from Llandudno took in pub football, semi-pro and Bury before Southall got to Everton. He worked as a waiter and a hod carrier as well as a binman.
At Goodison Park, Kendall was prepared to drop Southall and send him on loan to Port Vale — ‘to test me’ — before he became the goalkeeper of the best side in England and, but for the ban on English clubs after Heysel, possibly the best in Europe.
‘We could’ve been a megateam,’ he says, ‘and Howard could’ve set up a dynasty. But the chance was taken away through no fault of our own.’
Even today there is a gnawing feeling deep within the Everton family. What might have been. Southall is proud to be Evertonian and, even if he says the reception from the club is sometimes mixed, from the fans it is not.
There is an evocative passage in the book when Southall recalls an FA Cup tie at Stoke in January 1984, back when Kendall was still under pressure. A recurring theme is just how many Everton fans travel to games.
‘It was a proper footballing day,’ writes Southall, ‘a bit cold and crisp. All we could hear were our own supporters. Before kick-off Howard instructed that the changing room windows be opened. “Just listen to that,” he said. “Are you going to let that lot down?’”
Southall also has some fond memories from his Wales days — ‘my debut against Northern Ireland meant I was on the same pitch as my hero Pat Jennings’ — and he was caretaker manager for a game against Italy when Zoff was his opposite number.
But there are other tales, which centre on Welsh FA incompetence or low self-esteem. He was unimpressed by the focus on Belgium before Friday night's match. ‘You wouldn’t know we had great players.’
When Southall joined Everton in 1981, Liverpool was experiencing a recession and the Toxteth riots. He barely noticed. Last year during the turmoil in London, Southall watched closely and wondered ‘if any of ours were involved’.
By ‘ours’ he means the excluded teenagers he has been teaching and cajoling on training courses for the past two years in London and Kent. Southall gained his teaching qualification in 2006.
‘We had our own training company which gave excluded youngsters the chance of gaining an apprenticeship through sport,’ he explains. ‘They also did carpentry, bricklaying, art, other things. It’s alternative education.
‘It’s about children who aren’t academic, who are good with their hands, perceived to be disruptive or who are actually disruptive. They don’t get opportunities that academic children get. It’s not that they aren’t bright, just not academic. They’re called NEETs — not in education, employment or training.
‘They love boundaries. There is a misconception that they don’t. They push, but then they come from backgrounds where they don’t have any.’
They do not know who the big man in front of them is unless he sends them to YouTube. But education is changing again and Southall is planning his next move.
‘Respect for teachers has gone. They’re expected to be super-humans. And Michael Gove has killed off apprenticeships. He doesn’t want children going on courses, he wants them back in school. But the types we had don’t want four walls and they don’t stick at much.’
In general he feels there is ‘a lack of thought and no patience today. We need to change this culture. Everything is now. Kids want pink boots to stand out. I wore a black shirt but not to stand out. I thought a striker would have to look twice to make sure I was there.’
And Neville Southall usually was.
England are up and running on the road to Rio and running fast. Playing with welcome pace and fluidity, Roy Hodgson’s side took a confident first stride in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup with this emphatic victory over Moldova, a very porous chip off the old Eastern Bloc. One more goal and England would have been beaten the Moldovans by a tennis score.
This was one for the scrapbooks of players like James Milner, who delivered his finest shift in an England shirt, a font of energy and intelligence in possession, a sustained force first down the right flank and then the left. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain again reminded everyone that he belongs at international level, albeit acknowledging that Moldova were insipid. Tom Cleverley was neat and nimble, always a positive presence around the Moldova box.
The petals of praise were inevitably strewn at the productive feet of Frank Lampard, who reminded everyone of his enduring importance in England’s midfield by scoring twice. He dovetailed well in the first half with Steven Gerrard, a pairing that has not always been Rogers and Astaire in its smoothness.
This was also one for the Football Association record books. Lampard’s opener from the spot was England’s 100th penalty, 69 of which have been converted. This was England’s biggest away win in 19 years, dating back to their 7-1 victory over San Marino and that was a gloomy old occasion with Graham Taylor’s side failing to qualify for USA 94. San Marino infamously even took the earliest of leads, prompting a roaring trade in Scotland of “Gualtieri — eight seconds!” T-shirts.
England’s assault on the statistics books was all very enjoyable but what was more pleasing was the quality of the performance. Due acknowledgement must be made for the impoverished nature of Moldova. England fans had more trouble getting past the serried lines of police and stewards than Lampard, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cleverley, Gerrard and Jermain Defoe did in eluding Moldova’s midfielders and defenders. Defoe’s movement and constant threat on his 50th appearance was one of a number of positives for Hodgson. Defoe frightens defences.
What was particularly satisfying was that England accelerated into the lead after three minutes through that Lampard penalty and kept the throttle open. There were dips, occasional lapses of concentration, but overall this was a hugely uplifting display.
The damage was done relentlessly through that Lampard brace followed by well-taken strikes for Defoe and Milner as well as Leighton Baines’ deflected free-kick as Hodgson’s side set off strongly towards Brazil.
A predecessor charged with ending the years of hurt, Glenn Hoddle had embarked on a World Cup 16 years ago in Moldova, recording a 3-0 win, a scoreline that Hodgson’s side had matched by half-time such was the inspired intent of their football.
The passing was crisp and accurate. The pressing was relentless, England working hard to force turnover of the ball. The runs towards the box were exceptional, particularly from the excellent Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose yellow boots trailed peril.
Moldova were undeniably poor, not so much inviting England on, as ushering them into their box like kindly hosts offering guests a free run of the house.
England’s fans, numbering 1,000, had plenty to sing about. Having saluted Hodgson loudly as he strolled across the pitch before kick-off, they cheered his every stride back to the tunnel at the break.
Euro 2012 had been ultimately disappointing but Hodgson had been true to his word of injecting more fluidity, imagination and a touch of youthful promise. Oxlade-Chamberlain certainly provided that. So did the system, Hodgson removing the handbrake with his 4-2-3-1 shape.
England flowed forward from a first whistle that had the same effect on them as a starting pistol. Gerrard began the move for England’s first, accelerating through the middle before slipping the ball right to Milner, who directed the ball across to Cleverley. His shot was handled by Semion Bulgaru but the Moldovan hardly had time to pull his arm away.
Paulus van Boekel pointed straight to the spot and Lampard effortlessly placed the penalty past goalkeeper Stanislav Namasco. Lampard was anchoring midfield alongside Gerrard, although such was the anaemic menace of the opposition that the pair could push on almost at will. They made light of the uneven surface that had raised grounds for concern, although when Gerrard skied a cross after six minutes, the England captain looked accusingly at the pitch.
England were in total charge, moving the ball quickly up field time and again. Defoe stabbed a shot wide, following good approach work by Oxlade-Chamberlain, and was then denied by Namasco. Moldova’s No 1 was incredibly busy, pushing out a cross from Milner and then saving the follow-up shot from the alert, athletic Oxlade-Chamberlain.
England endured some briefly worrying moments, Artur Patras sending a shot over and then forcing goalkeeper Joe Hart to drop to his right to make a smart save.
In between, Moldova almost exploited English uncertainty at a corner. The ball was soon down the other end. Glen Johnson, particularly impressive going forward, tried his luck. Then Johnson raided forward again, running on to Gerrard’s pass and lifting in a superb cross that cleared the Moldovan defence, the ball arriving almost smiling for Lampard. He steered his header perfectly past Namasco.
The timing of the runs were destroying Moldova. Oxlade-Chamberlain, moving menacingly all over the final third, created England’s third with a strong charge through the middle and then a well-judged pass for Defoe to beat Namasco with a firm shot at the near post.
As the England fans kept up a rhythmic chant of “Roy Hodgson’s barmy army”, the manager began ringing the changes. First Michael Carrick arrived for Gerrard at the break, then Theo Walcott for Oxlade-Chamberlain, allowing Milner to parade his versatility on the left. Halfway through the second period, Danny Welbeck assumed the front-running mantle from Defoe.
After Cleverley should have scored from an England counter, Welbeck and Walcott combined to tee up Milner, who scored his first international goal with a low drive past poor Namasco. Then Baines found the mark with a free-kick that deflected in off Alexandr Gatcan. England finished with 10 men after John Terry limped towards the tunnel. In truth, England could have started with 10 and still won. Moldova were as lifeless as England were vibrant.
All talk of miracles can wait. England needed only a saunter to ease into their World Cup qualification campaign, Roy Hodgson's team barely breaking into a sweat against hapless opponents to set a tone they must now seek to maintain. Something miraculous may well be required in Rio, as Steven Gerrard has suggested, but a stroll was more than good enough in Moldova.
This was an eighth game without defeat, penalty shootouts aside, over Hodgson's brief tenure but, by the end, this whole occasion had been stripped of any competitive nature. The visitors even finished with 10 men, John Terry having reluctantly departed early for treatment after hobbling through the latter stages on a wounded ankle, but still registered their biggest away win since dismissing San Marino 7-1 in 1993. There was satisfaction to be gleaned from a thrashing, with this a collective sharpening of tools before Ukraine visit Wembley on Tuesday.
That will prove a trickier test, the management having pinpointed Oleh Blokhin's side as "one of the favourites in the group", though they will confront an England team buoyed by this battering. After all the trepidation born of Holland's toils home and away against these opponents in qualification for Euro 2012, and the pockmarked nature of the pitch, this was exposed as a mismatch from the opening exchanges. So ramshackle was the locals' attempt at defence that, with energetic wingers pouring into the space behind panicked full-backs and centre-halves dizzied by England's movement, it was cruel to behold at times. The contest did not extend beyond the half-hour mark.
The most obvious beneficiary of the visitors' superiority was Frank Lampard. By the end of the night he was perched 13th in the list of England's most prolific goalscorers, having leapfrogged Sir Geoff Hurst to score his 24th and 25th international goals. No other player has managed more than the Chelsea midfielder's 11 in World Cup qualification ties, with this a display to roll back the years. The 34-year-old's untracked dart forward between centre-halves, and smartly guided header from Glen Johnson's centre from the edge of the six-yard box, felt trademark and doubled the England lead 29 minutes in, with Stanislav Namasco utterly helpless in his goalmouth. Lampard and Gerrard had not started alongside each other in a competitive fixture since the nightmare that was Bloemfontein in 2010 but these were not opponents to test whether the combination still feels cumbersome.
The Chelsea player had also provided England's first, a penalty within the opening four minutes after Tom Cleverley's shot had been blocked by Simion Bulgaru with a hand. The midfielder's last double for his country had been against Croatia at Wembley in 2009, when he had pilfered his first from the spot and then nodded in a Johnson cross for his second, an uncanny parallel, even if this was a free-for-all. Namasco retired at the interval looking haggard, a broken man shellshocked by the whole desperate experience.
By then he had shipped a third at his near post to Jermain Defoe, who marked his 50th cap, while the chaotic Moldovan rearguard were still coming to terms with a two-goal deficit. More damage would be sustained near the end when England roused themselves to offer a sting in the tail, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and Cleverley breaking downfield, each passing up his own opportunity to add a fourth before James Milner crunched in his first goal at this level on his 32nd cap. Leighton Baines's deflected free-kick added yet more late gloss to the drubbing, the Everton player celebrating his first competitive start with England's first goal direct from a free-kick since David Beckham scored against Ecuador at the 2006 World Cup.
Those were all landmark moments to cherish. Just as appealing was the manner in which Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Milner cut swathes down either flank, albeit through flustered full-backs who had looked poorly positioned and horribly jittery from the start. Cleverley, too, was impressive in his combination play as a buzzing No10 on his competitive debut, his interplay with Lampard and Gerrard real reason for optimism for all, apart from Michael Carrick, presumably. The elder United midfielder started on the bench here where he had hoped to be on the pitch. His appearance after the break for the rested Gerrard at least allowed him to make his own classy impression.
Cleverley, on this evidence, will demand inclusion against Ukraine. "Tom stepped into that position and looks at home there," Hodgson said. "It's easy to see why Sir Alex [Ferguson] picks him so often for United, and it's very evident what a good decision it was to use him with Team GB at the Olympics. That gave me a chance to 'discover' him. It's nice to see these young players taking their chances and showing they merit a place in the squad. But the old guard are making certain they don't get too much of a look in."
Some context is required. Moldova were weak at the back and blunt up front, and have failed to score in six matches stretching back to last October, with only hints at English complacency offering them glimpses of summoning a riposte. Igor Armas flicked a header wide and Johnson almost sent Igor Picusceac through on goal. But, even so, Joe Hart's dramatic dive as Artur Patras's swerving shot from 40 yards flew over the bar felt like showmanship from a goalkeeper attempting to remind himself that this was an international occasion. For long periods it was actually a non-contest. Regardless, Hodgson's honeymoon has been maintained.