Roy Hodgson defends selection of youngsters Andros Townsend and Ross Barkley for England

Manager denies fast-tracking Andros Townsend and Ross Barkley highlights lack of quality in squad

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The Independent Football

Roy Hodgson has denied that selecting Andros Townsend and Ross Barkley for the England squad next week was an indication of how few experienced England internationals in the Premier League there are at his disposal, claiming that both players had a chance of making the starting XI.

Hodgson named Barkley, 19, and Townsend, 22, in his squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Moldova, a week on Friday and away to Ukraine four days later, largely on the basis of their performances in the Premier League this season. Townsend has played once for Spurs this season, albeit a good performance against Swansea on Sunday, while Barkley has started both Everton's games and played for the Under-21s under Hodgson earlier this month.

Also in the 27-man squad is Raheem Sterling, 18, who has played just 18 minutes for Liverpool in the league this season, against Stoke City in his club's first game of the season. Hodgson denied that their fast-tracking showed the paucity of English talent. "They might get into the team as I might consider them to have a better impact on the team," Hodgson said. "What I'm saying is they do have special skills."

Hodgson said that the teenager Barkley, who was part of the England squad at the Under-20 World Cup finals this summer, a rare bright spot in a dismal showing, was "a player more in the realm of Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, just to name two – Theo Walcott if you want to name a third – who are capable of receiving the ball in tight areas and going past people."

He also mentioned Jonjo Shelvey – "a fantastic passer of the ball" – and Wilfried Zaha, both named by Gareth Southgate in his Under-21s squad as other players who could potentially return to the senior squad. However, given the size of his squad for the two World Cup qualifiers he also said he would be prepared to send players back to the Under-21s over the course of next week

"If, after working with them, I've thought, 'No, you've still got a way to go, you're not going to be much in my thoughts and you wouldn't even make the 23', I will send them back to the Under-21s. They are all very young. I think Barkley is only 19 and Sterling is only 18, they have years of Under-21 football ahead of them... I will be interested to see how they shape up in the next six or seven days."

Hodgson said that Joe Hart could use next week's international break as a way of mending his confidence and said there was no danger that his status as No 1 goalkeeper would be challenged. He said: "I'm rather hoping Joe will use the England time together to get his confidence restored. He will be working with people who believe in him.

"Wayne [Rooney] was happy to be part of the Scotland game – to use that time, if you like, to dispel a few doubts about him. I can only hope that Joe will do the same. I will be vociferous in my support of him because he deserves it."

Hodgson conceded that England face a challenging task in their last four qualifiers to make it to the finals in Brazil next summer. "People were suggesting it was just for us to get above Montenegro," the England manager said. "Now we know it's Montenegro, Ukraine, England and Poland who aren't out of it. It's going to be a tight affair, but it's four games, four performances and hopefully four matches to win."

England squad for next month's World Cup qualifiers


F Forster; Celtic/25/0

J Hart; Man City/26/33

J Ruddy; Norwich/26/1

L Baines; Everton/28/18

P Jagielka; Everton/31/19

G Cahill; Chelsea/27/16

A Cole; Chelsea/32/103

G Johnson; Liverpool/29/48

P Jones; Man United/21/8

C Smalling; Man United/23/6

K Walker; Tottenham/23/6

R Barkley; Everton/19/0

M Carrick; Man United/32/29

T Cleverley; Man United/24/10

S Gerrard; Liverpool/33/103

F Lampard; Chelsea/35/98

J Milner; Man City/27/39

A Young; Man United/28/29

A Townsend; Tottenham/22/0

J Wilshere; Arsenal/21/8

T Walcott; Arsenal/24/34

J Defoe; Tottenham/30/54

R Lambert; Southampton/31/1

W Rooney; Man United/27/84

D Welbeck; Man United/22/17

R Sterling; Liverpool/18/1

D Sturridge; Liverpool/23/6