Wayne Rooney does not have the security of an automatic starting berth at Euro 2016, even if he recovers from his knee injury, according to Roy Hodgson.
The England manager named his squad yesterday for the friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands, picking Leicester City midfielder Danny Drinkwater for the first time. There were, as ever, high-profile injury absences: Rooney who has not played for five weeks as he recovers from a knee injury, and Jack Wilshere, who has not played all season.
England have suffered before from taking an unfit Rooney to a major tournament and Hodgson said he hoped to avoid the “unpleasant situation” of having to decide whether to select him if he has not fully recovered by the squad announcement deadline of 12 May. But even if Rooney does recover, Hodgson said that his 109 caps and 51 goals would not guarantee him a place in the starting XI when England play Russia in Marseille in 12 weeks’ time.
“I have never said that [Rooney] is an automatic starter,” Hodgson said at Wembley Stadium. “I have never said that anyone is. Does he have a good chance, with his track record, ability and experience? Of course he has. But that does not necessarily mean that he will be. He may not have recovered to the best of his ability. Or we might want to use different players, or to play a different way.”
Eight players that should have made the England squad
Eight players that should have made the England squad
1/8 Scott Dann (Crystal Palace) instead of Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Crystal Palace have been a disaster of late but that's been more to do with their lack of a cutting edge than their defensive prowess. Dann has was brilliant for the Eagles when they were flying high in the first half of the season and although his form has dipped, he has been a consistent Premier League performer for a while. He's strong in the air and in the tackle and good in possession. England must know what they are getting with Cahill by now, 40 caps into his international career. He's the fourth-best centre-back at Chelsea and has proved in a disastrous week for the Blues that he is not close to a top level defender.
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2/8 Steve Cook (Bournemouth) over Phil Jagielka (Everton)
The Cherries have been an extremely pleasant surprise this season and much more defensively solid than people believed they would be. Cook, has been at the heart of that, the former non-League player (albeit on loan) a consistent presence for Bournemouth since their League One days. He can also play at right-back and has a very handy 11 goals in his last three seasons. Like Cahill, what exactly is Hodgson going to learn about Phil Jagielka that we didn't know already? Cook (24) is also nine years Jagielka's (33) junior.
3/8 Aaron Cresswell (West Ham United) over Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool) or Ryan Bertrand (Southampton)
A hard cut for either Clyne or Bertrand who have both been excellent this season and are fully deserving of their places. But both of those players have been around the squad plenty of times, even if they have only limited experienced. West Ham United have obviously done something very wrong to Hodgson as he continues to ignore their players (more on a couple soon). Cresswell has been as consistent a player as you will find in the division since moving from Ipswich Town in 2014 and that he can't even make the squad is absolutely baffling. He's a very solid defender and an energetic presence on the Hammers' flank - West Ham are fifth, remember. Strange.
4/8 Mark Noble (West Ham United) over Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson will start England's opener against Russia if he is fit. Everyone knows that. Henderson has become an excellent midfielder and can offer the kind of drive few others can. But again, West Ham are fifth. Mark Noble is one of the first names on the team sheet; he has three goals and four assists this season; his passing accuracy is at 86 per cent; he averages two interceptions, 2.5 tackles and two successful dribbles. Henderson has only played 14 matches this season, Noble double that for a West Ham team far outperforming Liverpool. At this point Noble, 28, a phenomenally consistent player with nearly 300 Premier League appearances, must be wondering what he must do to get a look in with the Three Lions.
5/8 Marc Albrighton (Leicester City) over James Milner (Liverpool)
For fear of sounding like a broken record, James Milner will be on the plane to Euro 2016, barring injury. He's too consistent, too versatile and too experienced to leave behind. He never puts in a bad performance (he doesn't often give you a brilliant performance either, but ho hum). The point is not that Milner should not be in the England squad. The point is that Roy Hodgson should be using these two games - meaningless friendlies after all - to look at players that have been on the outside, rather than pieces of the England furniture. Albrighton, capable of playing on the left and right, has enjoyed a brilliant renaissance under Claudio Ranieri, with six assists this season for top of the table Leicester. He's started all but one game. Why isn't he in the squad?
6/8 Michail Antonio (West Ham United) over Adam Lallana (Liverpool)
Lallana has been nothing short of a disappointment since joining the Reds from Southampton in 2014. He seems to have struggled with the pressure of playing up to his big transfer fee. In two seasons at Anfield he's scored eight goals and provided eight assists - in his two Premier League seasons at Southampton he scored 12 goals and added 11 assists, the difference being that the Reds are expected to be challenging the top four and the Saints battling relegation when they first entered the division. Lallana has been better lately, but Antonio has been a revelation for Slaven Bilic's men in recent weeks. The powerful winger, a late bloomer at 25, has six Premier League goals this season and has proved his versatility with spells on the right, left and at right-back.
7/8 Jesse Lingard (Manchester United) over Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
Shouldn't we be just about done with Walcott now? He has more than 350 career appearances and 42 England caps. He's only scored in double figures in the Premier League once; he started the season as Arsenal's main striker but lost his place to the polarising Olivier Giroud. He's been a regular with the Three Lions for 10 years. What else is there to learn? He's not good enough. Lingard won't have been ignored because of the club that he's currently playing (the exact opposite in fact) but the youngster has shown in the past couple of months that he can more than cut it at Old Trafford. In fact he has four Premier League goals this season; the same number as Walcott.
8/8 Troy Deeney (Watford) over Danny Welbeck (Arsenal) or Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Welbeck and Sturridge should both absolutely be in France if they are fit enough and in form. That's not what this is about. The pair have been around Hodgson and Gary Neville enough times to know exactly what they offer, even if neither has played in white for a long while. This is about testing whether Watford captain Troy Deeney, 27, can cut it at the top level. He has proven himself to be a bit of a unique force in the Premier League this season. A powerful target man who also has the skill and guile to act as a second striker. Deeney has an eye for goal (eight in the league) and the unselfishness to help team-mate Odion Ighalo become one of the highest scorers in the division this season (six assists).
Rooney’s leadership role is very important to England, even when he is injured, and he will be involved with the squad next week at St George’s Park. He is unlikely to attend the game in Germany on Easter Saturday, but plans to be at Wembley for the visit of the Netherlands the following Tuesday. “He is our captain,” Hodgson said. “He’s been very important in that job in the last few years, and we need his influence and ability on the field. But that will have to be proven on the field of play. If he is fit, he will go. But not as an automatic starter.”
Hodgson remains upbeat, though, that Rooney will recover from his knee injury which should see him return to competitive football next month. “I am confident that he will get fit,” Hodgson said. Rooney should be fit to play in France, but Jack Wilshere is a different case. Hodgson has always been an admirer of his and he spoke warmly about his recent England performances, saying he would still want to include him if he returns to fitness for Arsenal.
“He will be selected if I think he’s fully fit to go, capable from the first minute of taking part in training,” Hodgson said. In Wilshere’s absence, Hodgson has included Drinkwater as an alternative to Eric Dier in that central midfield role. “We have been impressed with the qualities he’s shown with Leicester and believe those can be transported on to an international stage,” Hodgson said.