James Milner to benefit from Danny Welbeck suspension
Saturday 07 September 2013
He may not get fans on the edge of their seats but Roy Hodgson is acutely aware James Milner could be the ideal man to give England a hefty shove towards the World Cup.
Danny Welbeck's absence from Tuesday's potentially pivotal trip to Ukraine has created a vacancy in Hodgson's side.
After his 20-minute cameo in Friday night's 4-0 win over Moldova at Wembley, it appears Milner is in the frame to act as stand-in.
He might not have the physical attributes of Welbeck, nor the acceleration and dribbling skills of Theo Walcott.
However, on an evening when durability and hard work are likely to be key elements of a positive England performance, there is no-one more suited to the role.
"We know what James will do," said Hodgson.
"He isn't, and doesn't pretend to be, as exciting as some of the wingers we sometimes use these days.
"After a long period of time where I've not seen many wingers in the country, I'm now seeing lots of them.
"But we are going to need experience in Kiev. Milner is not a winger, but the qualities he brings could be very useful."
If there is a complaint about the 27-year-old it is that he does not score enough goals for England. Milner was winning his 40th cap on Friday night and has found the net just once.
He wasted an excellent opportunity to double his tally in the dying minutes of the Moldova encounter and Hodgson can only hope if a similar chance arises in Kiev, it will be taken.
From the moment Ukraine left Wembley with a point 12 months ago, Hodgson sensed England would require something similar from Kiev.
It is to his good fortune that an inexplicable draw with Moldova means Ukraine head into Tuesday's game needing a win to wrest the destiny of Group H out of England's hands.
With a home game against Poland and a trip to San Marino to face a side they fired nine past last night, a draw would not kill Mykhaylo Fomenko's men.
However, they would be able to do nothing to prevent England finishing top of Group H if Hodgson's side were to win their last two games against Montenegro and Poland, so evidently, there is pressure on the hosts which the visitors will look to exploit.
"Once they came away from Wembley with that draw, we knew we would have to match that result in Ukraine to be top of the group," said Hodgson.
"But the draw between Montenegro and Poland does us no harm either."
That is certainly true as England have now edged above Montenegro on goal difference, and also have a match in hand.
Providing that trip to Kiev is negotiated successfully, the Montenegrins would have to win at Wembley to exert pressure on Hodgson's players.
Yet despite the combination of injury and suspension that has robbed him of so many key frontmen, Hodgson senses an air of confidence about his squad that ensures they will not be diverted from their task easily.
"I can't say that is a positive thing to be without Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck and to know Daniel Sturridge might not be with us either," said Hodgson.
"But I believe the group of players we have will step up to the plate. They won't let us down."
Sturridge, who pulled out of Friday night's game after failing to recover from the groin injury he aggravated during Liverpool's victory over Manchester United last weekend, was due to report back to England's base in Watford on Saturday evening before undergoing more tests on Sunday.
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