Roy Hodgson has vowed that England will not repeat the mistake of taking an unfit Gareth Barry into another tournament, as the day arrives that will tell the manager the full extent of the injury crisis that clouds his European Championship hopes.
Barry will undergo a scan at Wembley today on the groin injury that severely limited his role in England's 1-0 win over Norway in Oslo on Saturday, while Glen Johnson and Danny Welbeck will both receive medical assessments on toe and ankle injuries respectively. The odds are stacked heavily against him making it. Hodgson has said that Barry's physique could count against him making a quick recovery, two years after he played semi-fit in the World Cup and was badly exposed in the 4-1 defeat by Germany.
"I can't take a risk on that one," Hodgson said. "Gareth is a big man. When big men get injured, they sometimes take a bit of time. He's not the type of guy who needs long breaks from football. If the scan is one of those scans that don't really give you the answer yes or no, then I will have a very serious discussion with him."
England waited anxiously on the outcome of Barry's ankle scan two years ago, with a dearth of central midfielders and Fabio Capello committed to leaving Scott Parker at home. But leaving the 31-year-old Manchester City player behind this time would have the compensation of allowing Hodgson to call up Everton's Phil Jagielka from the standby list to lift his defensive strength to a more healthy eight, in a squad of multiple midfield options. Jagielka, who impressed at centre-half on Saturday, was denied a part in South Africa by an anterior cruciate ligament injury that kept him out of the game for 11 months.
Hodgson is also ready to deploy Phil Jones in midfield, rather than call up Jordan Henderson – despite the Manchester United player having started one game in the centre for England and just seven for United. "I am not necessarily looking to replace man for man in the midfield areas – because I have a lot of players there," said Hodgson, who can call on James Milner, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Parker in central midfield.
Jones could be moved forward because Hodgson is now confident that both Johnson and Welbeck will be available, despite the United striker not having played since 30 April and still requiring anti-inflammatories on an ankle injury. Sir Alex Ferguson, who told Hodgson two weeks ago that the injury was "slight", will be unhappy if Hodgson takes a risk on the 21-year-old. But the England manager clearly wants Welbeck on the plane, since he considers Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge untested as a central striker.
The last-minute uncertainties contribute to the sense that the final 23-man squad, which must be submitted to Uefa by tomorrow, has been scrambled together. The Norway defender Brede Hangeland also said England looked tired during their unconvincing display in Oslo and said he felt Sweden had "a good chance" of qualifying from Group D, which also includes England, France and co-hosts Ukraine. "It's a good England team, but they look a little worn after a long Premier League season," the Fulham defender said. "Even if it was a friendly you could see that the English players need a break."
Hodgson was hugely relieved by the success of the Andy Carroll/Ashley Young strike partnership, which he is ready to deploy against France in Donetsk on 11 June, having decided on a two-man strike force for England's Euro 2012 opener. "Yes," he said to the idea that two would be up front against Laurent Blanc's side.
He said after the win in Norway that he views Wayne Rooney as a No 10, operating behind the main striker, the role Young took up on Saturday. "We all know [Rooney] is best in that position," Hodgson said. "The fact that he is such a good player, and can play in other positions, that's another matter. I think he's extremely dangerous when he plays as a second striker off another striker. Young did the same job for me."
Carroll, the greatest beneficiary of Hodgson's arrival so far, also impressed the manager by his discipline in dropping deep to collect the ball. "It's quite good sometimes if your bigger man is the one who comes and is the target in that space between midfield and defenders and your quick man is the one who is actually on the shoulders of defenders," Hodgson said. "We did that a lot at Fulham with Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson. Bobby was very often the man who dropped into the holes when we were defending and were going to use him for a counter-attack and Andy was the one looking to play on the shoulder. The good thing with those is they can do it both. Ashley can drop in and Andy can move up. It was an impressive performance from the two of them."