Having watched his side produce another dire first-half display in the ‘Battle of Britain’ against Wales, all eyes were on Roy Hodgson with the urgent need for a master-plan to save the game.
Trailing 1-0 to Gareth Bale’s well-struck free-kick that Joe Hart made a complete mess of after smirking seconds prior to the dead-ball – clearly relishing the thought of denying the Welshman – England needed goals.
In such a situation, at any level of the game from Sunday morning football in the park to the world stage, the standard retort is to turn to the strikers at your disposal.
This is traditionally a straightforward and logical move that, as you may expect, works better depending on the quality at your disposal as a manager.
Therefore, in a simply genius – or standard – move, the former West Bromwich Albion boss did just that at half-time with his team a goal down, as he found himself backed into a corner in Lens with only one last, single route out.
With the Three Lions needing to turn the game against Chris Coleman’s dogged side, and with the Welsh fans taunting “England’s going home!”, chucking on goalscorers in a last desperate attempt was in fact the only move Hodgson had left.
So, in a hugely bold act – or more accurately, the most straightforward he will ever make as a manager – Hodgson introduced Daniel Sturridge – by some distance England’s best striker – and Jamie Vardy, two men who god only knows why didn’t start the game in Lens.
Due to further dire 45 minute displays apiece from Raheem Sterling and the equally as ineffective Harry Kane – the duo practically handing themselves in as the men to replace – the substitutions were literally decided for the ex-Liverpool manager.
So, in a career-defining moment, with his team losing, his two most dangerous strikers on the bench, and two key attackers failing to produce, Hodgson worked his magic and proved what a master tactician he really is as Vardy and Sturridge rose to inspire the turnaround.
Actually, no he didn’t.
Hodgson made decisions that anyone in the watching football world would have, after his shambolic choice to stick with the same XI from the poor draw with Russia almost proved costly.
Sure, the substitutions paid off and went exactly how hoped, or more to the point, exactly how proceedings are likely to unfold when you actually allow an asset of Sturridge’s quality to play alongside the predatory goal-scoring instinct of Vardy.
That the changes worked was certainly nothing to do with the England boss – his team naturally looked better with more quality players on the pitch. Who would have thought it?!
If Hodgson is praised for anything, it’s his decision to make the changes at half-time rather than wait to see how a briefing at the interval could galvanise his side for a period off the second 45.
But even then, and giving him credit for doing that, the severity of the situation meant he had next to no choice but to act on the spot.
Now, at the second time of asking, Hodgson may actually learn lessons from the spirited comeback in Lens, namely to actually start with the best striker available and a born-goal-scorer against Slovakia at the expense of over-hyped talents, Sterling and Kane.
After all, like his substitutions against Wales, it’s one of the most straightforward moves he will ever make.