Roy Hodgson hoped for a helping hand from the Premier League with their early-autumn fixtures, and was said this morning to have been disappointed to have received no such thing.
England have two crucial World Cup qualifiers in September, Moldova at home and Ukraine away. They can barely afford not to take six points, as they try to fight their way through the autumn, past Montenegro, Ukraine and Poland onto the plane to Brazil.
So, understandably, Hodgson will want the fittest possible England team for those games. They only have two world-class attacking players, Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere, and it is inconceivable England could have any success over the next few years without them.
Hodgson, then, was not said to be thrilled when the fixtures came out. On that weekend immediately before the internationals – 31 August and 1 September – there are some un-gentle Premier League games in prospect.
Arsenal host fiercest rivals Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium while Manchester United travel to Anfield, where they do not usually receive too welcome a reception.
So most of England’s leading players – not just Rooney and Wilshere but Steven Gerrard, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, Glen Johnson, Jermain Defoe, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Phil Jones, Kyle Walker and the rest will have a rather intense preparation for those two England games.
Both of those games are liable to be moved for television to Sunday 1 September, giving four rest days before England host Moldova.
Hodgson is frustrated. But, at that stage of the season, you wonder how tired the England players would be, how likely the players are to get injured and how far the Premier League schedule should bend to maximise England’s chances of beating Moldova at Wembley?
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