Hodgson happy with wide options

16 February 2014 09:01

Roy Hodgson admits Raheem Sterling, Wilfried Zaha and Adam Johnson have all put themselves in the frame for a World Cup call-up with their recent form.

Hodgson has given up any hope of having Theo Walcott fit for the World Cup, but the England manager is sure he has plenty of credible alternatives to the Arsenal winger.

In fact, Hodgson named no fewer than six potential candidates who are in the running to replace Walcott at a media briefing earlier this week.

Hodgson noted with happiness that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend had all overcome their respective injuries and were back playing for their clubs on a regular basis.

But after watching Sterling run rings around Arsenal last weekend, it is hard to believe that the Liverpool midfielder will not be included in the England squad for next month's friendly against Denmark.

Hodgson, who handed Sterling his first cap last season against Sweden, said: "Raheem Sterling almost disappeared off the scene when he lost his place at Liverpool, but has enjoyed a re-emergence.

"He impressed me when I took charge of the under-21s (against Scotland in August) and now, since he's back in the Liverpool team, his form seems to be going up and up and up.

"He is doing it for a top team and that puts a lot of pressure on everybody else because if you can do it at the top of the table with Liverpool, then you can do it in an England shirt as well."

Hodgson earned a reputation for being a conservative coach during the early part of his tenure, but the 66-year-old has thrown caution to the wind on a couple of occasions recently, gambling wisely on new-boys Townsend and Rickie Lambert.

Hodgson has also wasted little time in promoting Ross Barkley from an under-21 squad which he says is "awash" with talent.

Zaha has found himself back in the under-21s recently. He enjoyed an even more dramatic rise towards international football last season after he was drafted into the squad to face Sweden despite playing for Crystal Palace, who were in the Sky Bet Championship at the time.

Hodgson had to forget Zaha when he did not feature for Manchester United, but a loan move has re-ignited the England manager's interest in the 21-year-old.

"Zaha is back in the frame again because he's playing football at Cardiff," Hodgson added.

Johnson would have expected to have far more than the 12 caps he currently has when he made his England debut four years ago.

The winger fell out of form towards the end of his time at Manchester City, but Hodgson has called the player up before and a run of six goals in five league games means he is another who is pushing for inclusion in the squad for Denmark, which will be announced on February 27.

"Adam Johnson is another (contender)," Hodgson added.

"These guys have got it all to play for but at the end of the day I'll have to make a choice. I can't take all of them."

Norwich's Nathan Redmond has also impressed Hodgson recently and with James Milner, Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young also vying for playing time, it is little wonder that the England boss plans to name up to 30 players in his squad for the friendly against the Danes on March 5.

After all, it will be the last time that Hodgson gets a chance to take a close look at his players before he names his provisional World Cup squad around May 13.

Another player likely to get the call for the March friendly is Luke Shaw.

Shaw will turn 19 on the first day of the World Cup but Hodgson is convinced the Southampton defender is already good enough to play for his country.

"I am satisfied with (Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines) but I also think that Luke Shaw is a player who could quite easily play for England not only in the future but today," Hodgson added.

"That will be one of those decisions which will be tough for me but it will be a decision I have to take as obviously we can't take three. Probably at most we'll be able to take two."

Source: PA