Roy Hodgson said that he was first alerted to the potential of 19-year-old Dele Alli, named in the latest England squad, when his assistant Ray Lewington spotted the teenager playing alongside his own son, Dean, in the Milton Keynes Dons side.
The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Alli, who joined the club for a deal worth £5m in February, was called up after just six Premier League appearances, three of them starts, for his new club. Lewington noticed him, Hodgson said, on his days off when he watched his son Dean who is captain of MK Dons.
Hodgson also named Danny Ings in a senior squad for the first time, for the Euro 2016 qualifiers against Estonia a week today and Lithuania three days later. He said that Aston Villa had turned down a request that Jack Grealish, now having opted to play for England over Ireland, train with the squad for a couple of days at St George’s Park.
On Alli, Hodgson said that Lewington had watched the player, who made his debut at MK Dons as a 16-year-old in November 2012, for some time. The teenager played two seasons as a regular at the club including the previous one, when he joined Spurs in February and stayed at the Football League club on loan until the end of the season.
“I thought he was good [for Spurs],” Hodgson said, “but we thought he was good beforehand because Ray Lewington, on days when he is not watching teams for us, he still tries to get to MK Dons in midweek. He has been doing that for a couple of years now so he alerted me to Dele Alli even two years ago when he first broke into the MK Dons team. He was very complimentary about him last year as a young player.
“We weren’t at all surprised when Tottenham bought him, we thought it was a good buy. He’s done even better. I think he was bought with a view to getting experience but he has broken into the team and he is playing well so it was an opportunity now, with the absence of quite a few players in the central midfield area, to have a look at him. We think going forward if he continues his rate of progress he could be very interesting for us.”
Hodgson said that he had extended an offer to Grealish to train with the squad for a couple of days but that Villa had preferred that the 20-year-old use the international break to train with them.
Hodgson has also allowed Daniel Sturridge to have this international break off in order that he can be ready for the friendly games against Spain and France next month, which the England manager now regards as more important.
Hodgson said that he had told Grealish and his father that there could be no guarantees about his place with the England squad. “I made it perfectly clear to him and his family, that we’re really happy he’s chosen England, we do believe in him,” Hodgson said. “He might even come into the first-team squad. But there’s no guarantee to that – he’s now an England player, he’s ready to play for England and he’ll play for England at the level which is appropriate and if he’s good enough.”
Rooney will receive a golden boot from Sir Bobby Charlton before the game a week today to commemorate his record-breaking 50th goal and a banner will be unfurled of messages from fans posted on Twitter. The England captain’s form has been up and down this season and Hodgson said that although he was not in a position where he would consider dropping his most famous player, there were no absolute guarantees.
“He [Rooney] would regard me as someone who is very false if I ever said to him his place is guaranteed. He would not expect it and I would be very upset if anyone asked me to give them a guarantee of a place as no one else has ever done and I would take umbrage if that day ever arrived.”
Who is Dele Alli? The lowdown on England’s new boy
Debut aged 16 for home-town club MK Dons – 22 goals in 74 appearances
One goal in 427 minutes for Spurs after signing from MK Dons for £5m in February
Represented England at U-17, U-18, U-19 and U-21 level
‘Del has probably got everything you need: height, strength, power and a football brain’ – MK Dons keeper David Martin
Goalkeepers: Butland (Stoke), Hart (Man City), Heaton (Burnley)
Defenders: Bertrand (Southampton), Cahill (Chelsea), Clyne (Liverpool), Gibbs (Arsenal), Jagielka (Everton), Jones (Man Utd), Smalling (Man Utd), Stones (Everton).
Midfielders: Alli (Spurs), Barkley (Everton), Carrick (Man Utd), Lallana (Liverpool), Milner (Liverpool), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Shelvey (Swansea), Sterling (Man City).
Forwards: Ings (Liverpool), Kane (Spurs), Rooney (Man Utd), Vardy (Leicester), Walcott (Arsenal)
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