Hodgson’s choice

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2015-11-13 5:03:02

Crocked starters open the door for England’s alternates for a Euro spot

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy controls the ball during the English Premier League match against Watford in Leicester on November 8. Photo: CFP

England were the only team to emerge from Euro 2016 ­qualifying with a 100 percent record but there are sterner tests ahead.

They have four friendlies before they need to name their 23-man squad for the European Championship which begins in June and they are in the midst of an injury crisis. Roy Hodgson already had 13 England regulars missing through ­injury - Luke Shaw, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-­Chamberlain, Danny Ings, Tom Cleverley, Ben Foster, Fraser Forster, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Jordan Henderson - before James Milner had to pull out of the squad with a hamstring problem. The Liverpool midfielder has not been replaced for the upcoming games but Hodgson will have to settle on 23 players for the Euros no matter who is fit by the deadline at the end of May.

There are 142 footballers in the Premier League that qualify to play for England and 37 of those are ­currently out injured. Disregarding the fact that many of them have ­never been deemed good enough to play for the national team, there is clearly something else wrong with English soccer. The current injury crisis could be for one of many ­reasons but the many foreign coaches of the Premier League are agreed that something must be done, with most citing the winter breaks that other European leagues adopt as being top of their list of measures. That will not happen this season. As the campaign unfolds it is inevitable that the impact of two games in a week and the insanity of the Christmas period will mean players are out injured by the final game of the Premier League.

Hodgson has already mentioned that he will not be taking any unfit players to France - something that England have been prone to do at major tournaments - so the recurring frailties of Sturridge and prolonged period that Shaw faces on the sidelines means that there will likely be room for some of the nation's less experienced players to stake their claim for a spot in the travelling party over the coming months.

Perhaps someone will come out of nowhere and play their way onto the plane to France but it seems more likely than not that any of the surprise selections are already in and around Hodgson's squad. Here is a look at the least capped players that are set to feature against France and Spain. If they can seize their chance then they are as good as on the plane.

Jamie Vardy - 4 caps

The Leicester City flyer's journey from non-league to national team has been well-documented but his form this season, which has seen him score in the last nine games, means the media attention is as deserved as that from opposition defenders. The public want to see him down the middle for England, something which Hodgson responded to by reminding them who picks the team, but you can't imagine Vardy will let something as insignificant as being played out of position affect him. If he's fit in May then he deserves to go.

Jack Butland - 2 caps

Stoke City's goalkeeper has been a rock at The Britannia this season after taking over from Asmir ­Begovic between the sticks. The former Birmingham City keeper has put in man-of-the-match performances and kept several clean sheets, plus he

has also made his second appearance for England, three years after his debut. A more reliable keeper than both Foster and Forster, Butland should be Joe Hart's first backup in France.

Tom Heaton - 0 caps

The former Manchester United trainee has benefitted from being one of a handful of eligible English goalkeepers, even including those unavailable through injury, to get his place in this England squad. The fifth-best of the five custodians under consideration, the Burnley goalie is also the only player from outside the top flight involved in Hodgson's plans. If he is at Euro 2016 then it is because at least two other stoppers are ruled out through injury.

Dele Alli - 2 caps

Tottenham Hotspur's midfielder is having an incredible debut campaign for the North Londoners. He looks a lot more experienced than his 19 years and 10 games in the Premier League and if that run continues then it's arguable that the teenager should be in the list of 23 no matter who else is fit. Deserves to end his season at the Euros.

Fabian Delph - 8 caps

The Manchester City midfielder is no stranger to injuries himself but currently has the chance to add to his string of appearances for the Three Lions. Delph has been an assured performer in Hodgson's side and ­offers the bite that most players in his position lack. If, and it is a big if, he can stay injury-free for the rest of the season then he has as good a shout as anyone to be picked.

Jonjo Shelvey - 4 caps

Swansea City's first player to represent England starred in the final qualification games, making up for lost time after his solitary first cap back in 2012. The Swans have struggled over the last few games but Shelvey can play his way into Hodgson's plans while others sit and watch. A dark horse for selection.

Eric Dier - 0 caps

England's only player with ­experience playing outside of the country, Dier has been a revelation this season for Spurs. He has evolved from a ­central defender-cum-­auxiliary right back into a fine defensive midfielder under Mauricio Pochettino. He should make his debut in these friendlies and his performance against sides of this caliber will show where he stands in his development. Unlikely at the start of the season but now it is in his hands.

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