Roy Hodgson: I won't beg anyone to play for us
England manager warns new boy Wilfried Zaha he has no time for players with divided loyalties
Roy Hodgson has warned Wilfried Zaha that he would not beg the young Ivory Coast-born prodigy to commit his international future to England and said that given the prestige associated with a call-up he would expect him to "get on a bicycle and cycle to the training session".
The England manager will tomorrow night, as Steven Gerrard wins his 100th cap, give debuts to 17-year-old Raheem Sterling of Liverpool, Tottenham's Steven Caulker and Leon Osman of Everton in the friendly against Sweden. Sterling will be only the second youngest player, after Wayne Rooney, to start a match for England since the Second World War.
As for Zaha, 20, who would still be eligible to play for Ivory Coast, the country of his birth, even if he is capped in Stockholm, Hodgson said that he had been given assurances by the player that he will stick with England. Previously, Zaha has said publicly that he was "50-50" but he has turned down a chance to play for Ivory Coast in January's African Cup of Nations.
Hodgson said: "Someone told me there have been 48 players in the squads I have chosen so far. If I can't get 11 players out of 48 that is a pretty sad state of affairs. I have a simple attitude towards it. When people are called up I expect them to come running, get on a bicycle and cycle to the training session if they have to, then they shake hands with everyone and tell everyone how happy they are to be there.
"All this nonsense about players receiving phone calls and being enticed away, if they are going to be enticed away, they will be enticed away. But if they are being enticed away they are not the right player for us."
Hodgson conceded that Zaha "has time to change his mind", an option he retains until his 21st birthday providing he does not play in a World Cup qualifier for England. Hodgson said: "My conversation with him inviting him here was to make it clear: 'I am inviting you because I expect you to be an England player.'"
Hodgson said he told Zaha: "If you don't want to be an England player and you are not sure you want to be an England player then you are better off telling me and I will pick someone else. We don't stand or fall on you. We have chosen you because we think you are a good one."
Hodgson will make all six of the substitutions permitted him by Fifa. The Arsenal full-back Carl Jenkinson could make it four England debuts in one game although the FA said tonight it had still not received Fifa clearance that Jenkinson, formerly an Under-21 for Finland would be able to play. The FA has been assured the documents will come through in time.
Hodgson said that Sterling's performances for Liverpool had made him impossible to ignore. Having given Sterling his Liverpool debut, aged 15, in a pre-season friendly, the England manager said the player was capable of performing at the highest level.
He said: "That would be a cliché to say [he had made] a significant contribution. In some of the games he has been pretty much a star player for Liverpool and extremely dangerous with his ability to run with the ball, his pace, his directness and he has even scored an important goal. If he can do it on a regular basis for Liverpool in the Premier League I have every right to think he can do it playing for England as well."
Jack Wilshere will play some role as a second-half substitute and Hodgson said he had allayed Arsène Wenger's fears about pushing the midfielder, recently returned from injury, too hard. "I think his main concern was that we were going to throw him right in at the deep end, a case of 'now you are going to play 90 minutes for us and be the star we expect you to be when you broke on to the scene 17 months ago'. That was never my intention."
England team to start
England (4-3-3): Hart, Johnson, Cahill, Caulker, Baines; Gerrard, Cleverley, Osman; Welbeck, Young, Sterling
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