England squad announcement: Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge included for crucial World Cup qualifiers
Roy Hodgson vows to stand by Joe Hart when the Three Lions play Montenegro and Poland at Wembley
Roy Hodgson has been able to select Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge in his England squad for the two remaining 2014 World Cup qualifiers - and used today's round of interviews to express his faith in Joe Hart.
There are still some concerns over the fitness of Rooney, who missed Manchester United's Champions Leagues tie against Shakhtar Donetsk last night after he was hurt in training.
However, David Moyes says he expects Rooney to play against Sunderland at the weekend, and if he comes through that unscathed, he will be available for the two games at Wembley against Montenegro and Poland.
Hodgson is also confident the Manchester United striker will be available.
"We are reliably informed that it's not a serious injury and it won't stop him joining up with us," Hodgson told a press conference.
Rooney will likely be paired with Daniel Sturridge for those games. The Liverpool striker has been in the best form of his career, scoring seven goals this season.
The England manager said he was looking forward to seeing Rooney play alongside Sturridge.
"I was thinking these two players are in great form.
"I'm happy that at the moment things are looking very good squad-wise.
"I'm very hopeful and very confident that these group of players, as long as they come through this weekend's games, they will take us there (to the World Cup finals in Brazil)."
There are few surprises in the squad selected by Hodgson, although the players available look considerably stronger than for the games against Moldova and Ukraine when injuries and suspensions took their toll.
Rickie Lambert and Jermain Defoe remain in the squad, while Danny Welbeck will be available again after serving a one-match suspension in the 0-0 draw with Ukraine.
There is no Theo Walcott due to an injury to the Arsenal winger, which ensures that Ross Barkley and Andros Townsend - with just one substitute appearance between them - keep their places in the side.
Hodgson will have a decision to make over Joe Hart who has been out of form this season, a slump that saw him blamed for two goals in Manchester City's 3-1 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich last night. Fraser Forster, who impressed for Celtic against Barcelona in midweek, is in the squad, however Hodgson looks set to stand by Hart.
"I think goalkeepers are always going to be in that situation (being criticised). The goalkeeper who lets a goal in which people think he might have saved, I'm afraid these are the people in the firing line," the England manager told Sky Sports News.
"They're very much in the firing line when it comes to criticism and to some extent it's a little bit easier to criticise the goalkeeper for what you think is a mistake when you could criticise the midfielder whose poor pass two or three moments earlier has provoked the goal chance in the first place.
"I believe that Joe will shrug this off, I'm sure that he's not happy with the criticism and he's not happy to have let in goals that he thinks he might have stopped.
"As far as I'm concerned he's never let me or the team down in the time I've been working with him.
"I have every confidence and every faith in him that he will have the confidence to put this behind him."
Hodgson added: "One cannot deny that your confidence improves with performances that earn you rave reviews but unfortunately the performances that get you criticised don't help your performances...
"He kept clean sheets against Moldova and Ukraine. We've let in three goals in eight games so it'll take a lot more than one bad game for any player before I start suggesting that he is replaced by somebody.
"In these games we need experience, we need people who are tried and tested and play regularly at the top level."
On the option of playing Forster, Hodgson indicated the Celtic goalkeeper would only be blooded once qualification is assured.
"If you look at the goalkeepers we have with those criteria, he (Hart) is clearly the number one," Hodgson added.
"We're pleased with Fraser, we think he's done really really well and I think he's got a great future.
"But certainly I think it will be a mistake to suggest that he should be given the responsibility of these two vitally important games.
"The players who have the most experience are the ones who have to make certain that they deserve it and that they are worthy of it in these two games.
"Then we'll see what Fraser can do.
"I've got great faith in Joe Hart and I've got no doubt in my mind that Joe will come through these games, will get us the results we need, and hopefully put one bad game behind him."
England currently top Group H, but sit just one point ahead of both Ukraine and Montenegro and three points above Poland.
Maximum points from the two games are the only results that will ensure qualification for the World Cup in Brazil next summer. Group winners qualify automatically while the best runners-up will go into a play-off.
The England squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland is:
Hart (Man City), Forster (Celtic), Ruddy (Norwich)
Baines (Everton), Cahill (Chelsea), Cole (Chelsea), Jagielka (Everton), Jones (Man Utd), Smalling (Man Utd), Walker (Tottenham)
Barkley (Everton), Carrick (Man Utd), Cleverley (Man Utd), Gerrard (Liverpool), Lampard (Chelsea), Milner (Man City), Townsend (Tottenham), Wilshere (Arsenal)
Defoe (Tottenham), Lambert (Southampton), Rooney (Man Utd), Sturridge (Liverpool), Welbeck (Man Utd).
Latest in Sport
- 1 To those who can’t see the point of International Women’s Day: you are the very reason it exists
- 2 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 5 Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role because late wife Natasha Richardson said she wouldn't marry him if he took it