Estonia vs England: Forget aspirin. Roy Hodgson is enjoying his selection headache


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The Independent Football

There is no headache like a selection headache in football management and Roy Hodgson welcomes the pain ahead of the European Championship qualifier in Estonia today.

Hodgson withdrew Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson at half-time against San Marino, followed by Danny Welbeck past the hour, all with an eye on Tallinn. Aside from confirming Leighton Baines would start at left-back, Hodgson would not reveal his thinking but did admit Thursday's performances from the bench by Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andros Townsend had given him serious "food for thought".

"The players I put on did extremely well, they did not do their chances of selection any harm," said Hodgson. "I was very happy for Lallana and Townsend, and the Ox, too. He has been in and out of the Arsenal team with injuries. It was nice that all of them justified their selections.

"I thought Lallana's performance in particular was very good. That is what you want. I don't want 11 players and then nine who come along and are nice blokes and don't give you any problems. This is England. If we are going to be any good we are going to need that pressure from guys breathing down people's necks.

"We had that last night (San Marino) and arguably that was the most important thing to come out of the game. At their clubs they have had to bide their time because of injury. It was good for them and the team because we believe in their qualities.

"We understand they are at clubs where competition is high, that it is easier to do something in an England group. It is nice to see when they are on the field they show their quality and give their club managers a fillip."

Hodgson told Baines he would be stood down last Thursday to give Kieran Gibbs a chance.

"Gibbs has been in the frame since I took the job and largely through injury he has been selected but not been able to join up," Hodgson said.

"I wanted to give him a chance in a game like this."

Hodgson warned there would be no complacency in Estonia after England's 100 per cent start. "We go to win fully aware we can lose if we are not at our best. I know others see a group that is perhaps easily winnable, especially after the latest games, but I'm not thinking like that."