One day in the future, perhaps, an England manager will be able to name an England squad without the static interference of John Terry's latest predicament providing low-level background noise, but that day is still some way off.
Terry has been stripped of the England captaincy, is now facing only an FA inquiry into his behaviour towards Anton Ferdinand a year ago instead of a court of law and, for unrelated reasons, is serving a European ban at club level. To say controversy has dogged the Chelsea captain's career would be to understate the case by the length of the Kings Road, yet like his Italian predecessor, who eventually resigned over his attachment to Terry, Roy Hodgson wants him in his team whatever the complications.
"I choose him as a player, I don't know what public criticism you are referring to," was Hodgson's defiant, almost Nelsonian response to suggestions that he might have left Terry out until the FA have completed their investigations. "Some people are criticising him, some are championing him," he adds, indicating he owns a highly selective ear rather than a deaf one. "I have no interest in that debate whatsoever. I am told I can pick the team I want to pick and John Terry is available to be selected. The other aspect of things will take its course and has no influence at all in my thinking."
That was more or less Fabio Capello's position too, until the FA overruled him in regard to his choice of captain, but though Hodgson seems to be taking a similarly hardline stance he is probably calculating that now the principle of Terry being allowed to represent England while defending his character has been established he is on safe ground in continuing to select him as a team member. Hodgson is a much more pragmatic, diplomatic individual than Capello, and has already begun to dismantle some of the ground rules the Italian set in stone.
Under Capello, for instance, no player could expect to be called up for England if he was not playing regularly for his club. "It is impossible," Capello would say, and he made very few exceptions. Hodgson, on surveying the amount of English talent the Premier League has to offer, believes it may have to be made possible. "I'm not prepared to have a hard and fast rule, I intend to be more pragmatic than that," he says, after naming lightly used players such as Daniel Sturridge, Ryan Bertrand and Andy Carroll in his squad for the games against Moldova and Ukraine, though the last of these has now had to withdraw after picking up a hamstring injury on his debut for West Ham on Saturday.
"It goes without saying that I would prefer to be picking from a list of players who are regulars at club level, but if I want to use youngsters such as Sturridge or Danny Welbeck, to blood them and bring them through, then I might just have to accept that they won't be appearing every week for their clubs.
"What we have in this country at the moment is a number of promising English 21-year-olds at top clubs competing with players who are world stars. I don't think it would be right to overlook them just because most weeks their club coach prefers Fernando Torres, Sergio Agüero or Robin van Persie."
Carroll has moved from Liverpool to West Ham on loan, ostensibly a backward step though one that at least should mean that when fit he is used more regularly so that his form and effectiveness can be more readily assessed. "Andy might have played more often had he stayed at Newcastle, but he made a move to a bigger club and I have to accept that," Hodgson says. "It's what players generally do, but the big clubs in this country have very strong squads and it is not always easy to break into the team. The same thing used to happen with Sweden, where the best players would go abroad, but not necessarily find themselves playing every week in Italy or Germany.
"It's not something I'm happy about, but you have to do your best to give young players the necessary experience because you could be relying on them in the future. Ryan Bertrand is a good example. Everyone else is fit so we could have left him out, we have good cover on the left. But we were keen to have him with us because maybe in a couple of years he will be playing a bigger part."
Tickets are still available for the Ukraine game at Wembley on 11 September, by which time Hodgson hopes to have points in the bag ahead of the home fixture against San Marino the following month and the slightly trickier trip to Poland. Based on England's world ranking and the performances of Poland and Ukraine at Euro 2012, Hodgson cannot claim to be in a difficult group, recent struggles against Montenegro notwithstanding.
History suggests qualification is not the problem, however, it is the tournaments where England often fall apart, and Hodgson is prudently trying to steer a path between not taking anything for granted in the early stages and not being too daunted by the fact that no European team has ever won a World Cup in South America. "Playing on your own continent is a major advantage, but I think most people would agree Spain are currently playing football that would compare with the Brazil teams of the past, so maybe the gap is getting smaller," he says.
"As for England, we are at the start of a campaign, and that's always exciting. People might say we can't win this World Cup, but we can certainly start out believing we can win. To win the World Cup you have to be a very good team, but first you have to get there. Then it depends on whether you are good enough. But while we can believe, let's believe. We'll be ready to give it a good shot."
England's road to the World Cup
7 SeptMoldova v England
11 Sept England v Ukraine
12 Oct England v San Marino
16 OctPoland v England
14 Nov Sweden v England*
22 Mar 2013San Marino v England
26 Mar Montenegro v England
14 AugEngland v Scotland *
6 Sept England v Moldova
10 SeptUkraine v England
11 Oct England v Montenegro
15 Oct England v Poland
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