England vs Slovenia: Roy Hodgson cuts up rough as NFL games take their toll on Wembley pitch

England manager is unfailingly truthful about his feelings on the subject

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The England manager, Roy Hodgson, has criticised the Football Association for staging two NFL games on the Wembley pitch, one of them just six days before England are due to face Slovenia in their Euro 2016 qualifier.

The FA staged the game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Detroit Lions on 26 October and the Dallas Cowboys face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, ahead of the Slovenia game. The Wembley pitch was being prepared for the NFL game yesterday when Hodgson announced his squad at the stadium for the qualifier against Slovenia and the friendly against Scotland in Glasgow three days later.

It is estimated that the FA earns £3m a match from NFL games, with this the third of the current American football season to be staged at Wembley. Hodgson is unfailingly truthful about his feelings on the subject, although his comments in this instance will be awkward for his employers. Next season, there are two rugby union World Cup games scheduled for late September and an NFL game on 4 October before England play Estonia five days later.

Asked about the effect on the pitch, Hodgson said: “I don’t really think you could expect me to say, ‘Excellent, delighted, well done’. But I’m realistic, I’m pragmatic and this match has been organised for a period of time now.

 

“The pitch, unfortunately, is not in the best of nick anyway, which we’re all a bit unhappy with. I think it will get put right. Adrian Bevington [senior FA official and managing director of Club England] is in charge of taking this matter forward and I am sure we will find a good solution.

“But if asked if it was a good thing or not, I would honestly have to say not. I can do nothing about it and we won’t use it as an excuse, [we will] adapt and get on with it and, hopefully, in the future the pitch will recover to its normal level. When it has done that we will be better able to support this type of activity.”

Hodgson said that he did not believe there would be any danger of injuries to the players and that every effort would be made to repair the surface. “I can’t pretend that it is something that makes me leap for joy. But I accept it and I know the ground staff will work very, very hard to give us the best pitch they can give us.”

Saido-Berahino.jpg
Saido Berahino, 21, has been called up after scoring eight goals for West Bromwich Albion this season (Getty Images)

Hodgson selected Stewart Downing and Michael Carrick after long absences. There was a first senior call-up for Saido Berahino. Hodgson also recalled Theo Walcott but warned that the Arsenal man, who has only just returned from injury, might not feature in either game. There was no place for the Liverpool right-back Glen Johnson.

Instead Hodgson picked Nathaniel Clyne and Calum Chambers. “I know he [Johnson] has not been at his best form and he would be the first to admit this,” Hodgson said. “He is a top-class player, playing for a top-class team – but I have picked 26 players here. I am not going to make it 30.”

Hodgson said that he had not spoken to the Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, after the fallout from Raheem Sterling’s tiredness before the previous qualifier in Estonia. However, he said that he stood by his account of the conversation with the player on the day before the game in which Sterling said he was “too tired” to train.

“Brendan is wrong to do that [challenge Hodgson’s account],” the England manager said. “I have 30 witnesses and Brendan was not there. If that is all it is, he got the wrong end of the stick and I would be happy to put him right and talk to him about it.”

Hodgson also warned he could not pick Rickie Lambert indefinitely if he continued to be left out by Rodgers at Liverpool. He said he had looked at Queen’s Park Rangers’ Charlie Austin and Tottenham’s Harry Kane as possible alternatives. “I can’t give him [Lambert] a lifetime guarantee that if he’s not playing enough football, not doing well, then he won’t just lose his place in the Liverpool team, he’ll lose his place in the squad.”

There was a recall for Ross Barkley and a flattering comparison with Paul Gascoigne. “He’s got great potential as an impact player,” Hodgson said. “He’s a magnificent runner with the ball – you could compare him to Paul Gascoigne. That’s dangerous because you will make all sorts of comparisons but Paul Gascoigne was a powerful runner with the ball: once he set off and went by people they didn’t catch him. Ross Barkley is the same.”

England squad / November fixtures

Goalkeepers

F Forster, B Foster, J Hart.

Defenders

L Baines, G Cahill, C Chambers, N Clyne, K Gibbs, P Jagielka,  L Shaw, C Smalling

Midfielders

R Barkley, M Carrick, S Downing, J Henderson, A Lallana, J Milner, A Oxlade-Chamberlain, R Sterling, A Townsend, J Wilshere, T Walcott

Forwards

R Lambert, W Rooney,  D Welbeck, S Berahino

Fixtures:

15 Nov, Euro 2016 qualifier Slovenia (h)

18 Nov, friendly Scotland (a)

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