Hodgson will not throw out old guard until younger players are ready to step up
The England manager, Roy Hodgson, is adamant that he will not bow to popular pressure and throw out the old guard as World Cup qualification begins on Friday in Moldova. In John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, he has named four players in his squad with more than 75 caps each, and Wayne Rooney would have been another had he not been injured.
The transition to a younger group was started for him by his predecessor, Fabio Capello, with half of the much-maligned 2010 World Cup squad no longer included, but Hodgson is keen to avoid the mistake Chelsea made last season in dispensing with players prematurely.
"André Villas-Boas when he came into Chelsea decided that's the way he would go and maybe was advised to by the owner, and yet eventually they're the players who come back and win them the Champions' League," Hodgson said.
"I think they're still good enough. I want to win football matches and I won't be prepared to throw away players of the quality of Lampard and Terry and Gerrard until I'm sure there are much better players who can take their place. That's not happening in their club teams at the moment because they're very, very important members of them and when they don't play, their club teams miss them enormously.
He added: "When they let me down, maybe I'll say people were right, but they haven't done that as yet – quite the reverse. Terry and Gerrard were two of the most important people in the Euros."
A decision on Terry may be taken out of Hodgson's hands if he is found guilty on a Football Association charge relating to the Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand, but his personal hearing has been delayed until after the games against Moldova and at home to Ukraine (for which many tickets remain unsold). In the meantime, Hodgson prefers a policy of gradual integration of young players such as Ryan Bertrand, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tom Cleverley and Daniel Sturridge.
He has quickly resigned himself to losing players through injury as well as having others, like that younger generation, who are not first choices for their clubs. "That's not something I can say I'm happy about," he said. "I have to accept that, unfortunately. There is a situation today where the talent in the country, especially the younger talent, is going to get attracted to the bigger clubs to some extent who have quite strong squads and it's not always going to be easy for them to break into the team. So it's up to these lads to make sure they do get in."
At least previous fringe players such as Andy Carroll at West Ham and Adam Johnson at Sunderland, should now do so. As for the old guard, Hodgson will take his turn as the latest England manager to try to get Lampard and Gerrard working together. "They're both very good players," he said. "It's maybe just that when the game has taken place people haven't enjoyed what they saw.
"It's simple. They haven't been together in my time as England manager and I don't see any obstacles as to why they can't play together. I'm not going to be affected by past judgements of them playing together. I'll make my own judgements."
Rooney should be available for the October games against San Marino and Poland. "He's a player who can make our England team better and, when he's fit, it's up to him to prove that," said Hodgson. "There's no doubt he wants to play and he's eager to do a good job for England and I want to give him that chance. After that it will be up to him to seize that chance, to play well and put some of those past criticisms to bed."
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