England squad: Saido Berahino's England journey 'starts here' as Roy Hodgson promises West Brom striker he will be considered to play

Hodgson has called up 21-year-old Berahino for the first time ahead of the matches against Slovenia and Scotland

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The Independent Online

England manager Roy Hodgson was delighted to be getting a closer look at Saido Berahino after calling up the West Brom striker for the upcoming games against Slovenia and Scotland.

Hodgson admitted Berahino had been in his thoughts ahead of last month's Euro 2016 qualifying double-header against Estonia and San Marino, but was omitted due to England Under-21s' two-legged European Championship play-off against Croatia.

The Burundi-born 21-year-old has scored seven goals in 10 Barclays Premier League matches for the Baggies this season, and has now been rewarded by a first senior international call-up.

"The reasons are quite obvious - he's done so well, not only for West Bromwich Albion but also for the Under-21 team," Hodgson said at a press conference on Thursday lunchtime. "He's really been in good form.

 

"The last get-together he was obviously in our minds but we didn't choose him because of the importance of the two Under-21 qualifiers against Croatia.

"But this time they only have a friendly match, so there's no reason to pass over his credentials yet again."

Hodgson stressed Berahino would be a contender to play in the two games, rather than simply being involved to build up his experience.

"When you call players up, you call them up to play and they must come into the group believing they have a good chance of playing," Hodgson said.

"I'm sure Saido will come wanting to play and hoping to play. He faces stiff opposition. He's a bright boy and understands that

"He's not there for the learning process. But at the age of 21 and getting his first call-up I'm sure he'll understand like we all do that he hasn't made it to Wayne Rooney status yet. But his journey starts here and we wish him well on the journey."

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Berahino celebrates a goal for West Brom

Michael Carrick and Stewart Downing were the other surprise inclusions.

Manchester United midfielder Carrick was left out of Hodgson's World Cup squad and has only just returned from an ankle injury he suffered in the summer.

Downing, whose last cap came in May 2012, has earned a recall after impressing for West Ham this term.

Wayne Rooney was included in the 26-man party, which means he is likely to earn his 100th cap against Slovenia at Wembley a week on Saturday.

Arsenal winger Theo Walcott is recalled to the squad after recovering from a knee injury that kept him out for 10 months and Everton's Ross Barkley is back after missing the last two get-togethers with a knee injury.

Hodgson opted to omit Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge, however, and revealed the Liverpool striker is suffering from a calf problem and has not played since he strained a thigh muscle just before England's clash with Switzerland in September.

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Stewart Downing has been rewarded for his impressive form for West Ham

Hodgson said he had left a message for Brendan Rodgers about Sturridge's fitness, but that the Reds boss had not got back to him.

"That was never realistic possibility," the 67-year-old said of the striker's inclusion. "He's still recovering from the calf injury he picked up. It's unfortunate. We were hoping, of course, to get him back, but it hasn't worked out.

"Our medical staff have had contact. I've left a message for Brendan. The message was that it's pretty obvious that he's not fit, and Brendan's not rung back to counter that he actually is."

Sturridge's Liverpool team-mate Glen Johnson has been left out even though he returned to action last month following a thigh injury.

Tottenham's Harry Kane was another young player under consideration by Hodgson, after his run of eye-catching form.

Asked about Kane, who will remain with the England Under-21 side, Hodgson said: "If he continues to do well I think it won't be long before he's knocking very seriously on the door for a place in the senior squad."

Hodgson was again spurred to come to the defence of Raheem Sterling, the Liverpool winger he left out of his starting line-up for last month's Euro 2016 qualifier in Estonia.

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England manager Roy Hodgson

Hodgson said Sterling had told him he was tired, which led to accusations that the 19-year-old had said he did not want to play.

Those claims have been refuted by Hodgson, who stressed again on Thursday that Sterling has been "unfairly treated".

"I'm disappointed for him and he knows that but our relationship's a very good one," Hodgson said.

"If you say there's things to learn, we will probably both learn from them, although I don't really understand how it's a clear mistake to tell the truth when you're asked questions about why you've not chosen a player.

"He did nothing wrong and I've got to be honest I don't think I did anything wrong either.

"I've great respect for Raheem Sterling. I agree with Steven Gerrard - I think he's going to do wonderful things for England in the future."

PA

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