Roy Hodgson felt moved to defend his England selection policy recently, reacting to comments made by Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher that it is now too easy to win a call-up for the national side.
The former Liverpool defender’s claims came after Dele Alli made his senior debut against Estonia on Friday after just three Premier League starts for Tottenham. However, Hodgson disagreed:
“I don’t think it’s a situation where the moment you kick the ball correctly from A to B you’ll get in the England team,” he said, citing the vast number of injuries as the reason for the former MK Dons midfielder’s inclusion.
In reality, the injury issues facing Hodgson, coupled with the relaxed competition of Group E, means the England boss is in a no-win situation.
He is charged with handing out full caps like till change at the moment, but take a first-choice side to Lithuania for a dead-rubber and accusations of not learning about his fringe players would be flung his way.
Hodgson needs to select 23 men to travel to France next summer, of that number there is perhaps only six men, at a push, that are guaranteed a starting spot: those being Joe Hart, Gary Cahill, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney.
Everyone else is applying for their position and it’s only fair, not to mention correct, that Hodgson gives equal opportunities to each candidate.
What’s more, England’s friendly schedule ahead of Euro 2016 is tournament-tough, with games against Spain, France and Germany taking place ahead of the competition.
It’s unlikely that Alli, Ryan Mason, Jamie Vardy, Danny Ings or any other Three Lions outlier will see many minutes in those outings, so the Estonia and Lithuania games provide the manager with the perfect platform to hold trials.
As Hodgson himself intimated, if Alli goes on in the next few months to become a leading Premier League performer, the calls to bring him into the England set up will be deafening. At least now he already has an idea of what to expect.
The Lilywhite youth is 10/1 to mark his expected first start for his country with the first goal in Vilnius, perhaps then Carragher may accept him.
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