Wigan winger Callum McManaman being monitored by England manager Roy Hodgson
Roy Hodgson mentions Wigan winger as proof World Cup squad is far from settled
Of all those wild cards who might potentially be included in the England squad for Brazil next May, it is safe to say that Callum McManaman was one of the more unusual names mentioned by Roy Hodgson yesterday as he surveyed his options.
Ahead of the game against Chile, the England manager was midway through a point about how he was not prepared to take anything for granted when he threw in the name of the Wigan Athletic winger, who had a promising run of form last season curtailed by a serious ankle injury.
It would appear that the England manager is casting his net wide indeed, as far as the Championship and a player who has never even featured for the Under-21s.
"He has only just got back from injury," Hodgson said. "He hasn't been a 100 per cent regular. We have been following his progress. I mention him as a player who burst on to the scene at the end of last year and, unfortunately, disappeared through no fault of his own, he got that very nasty injury.
"There are certain players like that who are out of the immediate radar – your immediate radar – but they aren't out of our radar. We are even prepared to follow that."
He is right that McManaman has not been a regular under Owen Coyle at Wigan, having started just five of their 14 league games so far, but he has been back in action since the start of August.
It feels somewhat remarkable that Hodgson feels he has to look into the second tier for players – although his recent predecessors have all done it at some point – but he clearly feels that he will have to cope with some big changes in the months to come.
"I would be lying if I didn't say he [McManaman] has a lot to do because quite simply in his absence other players have come forward and staked a pretty strong claim and he would have to be doing something exceptional to knock them off their perch for this particular tournament. But it is certainly not impossible.
"Out of the players at the moment, we would sit down and say, 'These are pretty certain to go' and there wouldn't be a lot of dissent in the room if all of those will be fit and available to go. Let alone form, because there are a lot of matches going to be played between now and the middle of May, a lot of European matches as well."
McManaman is no longer eligible for the Under-21s, although he was named in Stuart Pearce's European Championship squad in the summer before injury ruled him out. As for the nature of his squad come May – and after Chile Hodgson will have only two more friendlies before he has to name it – he said he had not even compiled a potential list for fear of many getting injured.
He lost Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Gary Cahill, John Ruddy and Kyle Walker in the build-up to Euro 2012 and that has clearly changed his way of thinking as he plans for next summer.
Whether Hodgson could ever envisage a situation in which he gets to the point where he gives McManaman a call is another matter. In the friendly against Chile, he will inch closer to the kind of big decisions he has to make.
Leighton Baines or Ashley Cole? Is Ross Barkley ready yet – to the extent that he can be pencilled in for Brazil? Is Ruddy now officially the No 2 goalkeeper behind Joe Hart? Is a central defensive pairing of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling a viable alternative to Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill, a pair who have served Hodgson so well over the qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014? Are Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez potential internationals?
After Chile, only the games against Germany on Tuesday and then Denmark in March will give Hodgson a chance to test players in an environment that he considers so exacting.
"The rehearsals can be as good as you like, but it's when they step out on stage on the first night that it really counts," he said. "It's going to be a big night for them if they get their chance and, unfortunately, if they do fail spectacularly and do really badly, it will be held against them.
"But I would like to think that I will make my judgements on these players not purely on their success or relative failure during the 90 minutes but on what feeling I have got for them during these get-togethers and also what I see of them week in, week out in the Premier League."
Having said that, he promised that he would not be making "draconian judgements" on the basis of Friday's performance. At times Hodgson positions himself as an England manager who is keeping an open mind on the composition of his 23-man squad next summer.
In other moments he suggests that the door is closing to late contenders. All that seems certain is that he has by no means made up his mind just yet.
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