By Coral Barry
England’s friendly against France tomorrow is now a “symbolic occasion” with the result of secondary importance, according to Roy Hodgson.
The game will go ahead despite Stade de France being at the centre of the Paris terror acts last Friday which devastated the French capital.
“I still believe tomorrow night will be about us showing solidarity and people writing about the reasons for this football match being played rather than what happens on the field,” Hodgson said this afternoon at his pre-match press conference.
“We can’t deny that there is something over this game that is far greater than football and I can’t imagine how this game is going to go because I’ve not been in this situation before.
“We will prepare and try to play the best game we can play but we can’t deny there are other issues at stake.”
Hodgson revealed he will field an “experimental” team made up of six players aged 22 or under but admitted that he is trying to find it hard to concentrate on just the match itself.
“I’ve got to say I’m finding it hard to balance the enormity of the occasion with questions about the football players,” Hodgson explained.
“I don’t quite know how to balance that up. Maybe when the game starts it will retain an element of normality for me as a manager.”
FA chief executive Martin Glenn echoed Hodgson’s sentiments after receiving the go ahead from the French Football Federation on Saturday.
“They wanted to go ahead, for mainly symbolic reasons, and we were very happy to meet their concerns,” said Glenn.
“The eyes of the world will be on the game. It’s important to do something to show that terrorism can’t win.”
Part of that solidarity will be the singing of the French anthem, with the entirety of Wembley invited to join in.
“We will be singing it in French. I think that will be a powerful thing. A few things will be different,” said Glenn.
Despite the England manager admitting that many English fans do not speak French he urged people to join in with the symbolic gesture.
Speaking in French, Hodgson said: “I would encourage everyone at Wembley to sing La Marseillaise.”
Skipper Wayne Rooney added: “We have to try and be as respectful as we can and then obviously there’s a football match.
“It will be tough I’m sure for the French players but I’m sure it will be a chance for them to do the country proud. They’ll give everything they can to make France proud.”