Sterling among England starters

Raheem Sterling, Leon Osman and Steven Caulker will all start for England in Wednesday night's friendly against Sweden in Stockholm.

Last Updated: 13/11/12 at 23:12

Sterling: Will start for England

Sterling: Will start for England

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Osman, at 31 years and 181 days and Sterling, at just 17 years and 342 will create the biggest age gap between Three Lions debutants since World War II.

With Tottenham's Caulker included as well, his first international appearance for England since being embroiled in those atrocious scenes in Serbia for which the Tottenham defender has ended up facing criminal charges, suddenly a late autumn trip to Stockholm is not quite the pointless exercise some Premier League managers would have us believe.

"Steven Caulker and Raheem have been playing regularly for the Under-21s and have made that transition," said Hodgson.

"Leon Osman is the odd one out. He has been performing regularly and well for Everton but has been passed over.

"I thought it was time to give him a chance because he has been one of the unsung heroes of a very good football club and a very good football team.

"He is a very energetic player. And the fact he is 31 surprises me because he plays like a much younger man.

"Let's hope that continues and I won't have to worry about his birth certificate."

Yet if Osman is getting due recognition for his selfless contribution to the Everton cause, it is the man who hails from the other side of Stanley Park who will get all the attention.

Sterling will become England's fifth youngest international on Wednesday.

Since the start of the 20th century, only Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney earned senior England honours at a younger age, and only Rooney as a starter, which the 17-year-old will do at the newly constructed Friends Arena.

It is a measure of the startling progress Sterling has made that as recently as February 2011, he was scoring five goals for Liverpool's youth team in a 9-0 win over Southend.

In a difficult first season on Merseyside from Brendan Rodgers, Sterling has provided a dazzling ray of light.

"In some of the Liverpool games I have seen, he has pretty much been the star player," said Hodgson, who first noticed Sterling properly when he was at Anfield and blooded the youngster in a pre-season match against Borussia Monchengladbach, at which point he was only 15.

"He is extremely dangerous with his ability to run with the ball, his pace and directness. He has even scored one or two important goals.

"If he can do it on a regular basis for Liverpool in the Premier League, I have every right to think he can do it playing for England as well."

Hodgson has taken the rare step of unveiling his team to the media in advance of kick-off.

So we know there will be three Liverpool players starting - Sterling, Glen Johnson and centurion Steven Gerrard - plus three from Manchester United - Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young.

And Arsene Wenger can breathe easily about Jack Wilshere's involvement. Not that Hodgson can see what the fuss is about.

In his mind, matters regarding the Arsenal player were cleared up last week, when he gave Wenger an assurance about how he intended to use the 20-year-old.

So, it seemed, Hodgson regarded questions about Wilshere's fitness, after just three senior games, as mischief making.

"What do you mean he has played one full game in 17 months?" said Hodgson when quizzed on the matter.

"You mean one 90 minutes? So you are ignoring the 75 minutes in one game, the 65 minutes in another, the game he has missed through suspension and the four he played for the under-21s?

"Arsene Wenger's main concern was that we were going to throw him right in at the deep end, which was never my intention.

"I am pleased he is with us and available and Arsene is happy with that as well.

"It is ridiculous to suggest he is not available to play for England. It is another storm in a tea-cup."

Hodgson is therefore resisting the temptation to pair Wilshere up with Gerrard, a partnership many see as having long-term potential.

There is an element of on-the-hoof planning going on because FIFA clearance is still awaited for Carl Jenkinson, although the FA have been assured it will arrive before kick-off.

Hodgson is limited to six substitutes though, which means five players will be required to complete the full 90 minutes, which, inevitably, will draw criticism from somewhere.

"The bottom line is I can't change the whole team," said Hodgson.

"With the five players who are required to stay on the field I risk those managers being a bit unhappy, but there's not much I can do about that. It is a bona fide international fixture."

England team v Sweden: Hart (Manchester City), Johnson (Liverpool), Cahill (Chelsea), Caulker (Tottenham), Baines (Everton), Gerrard (Liverpool), Cleverley (Manchester United), Osman (Everton), Sterling (Liverpool), Welbeck (Manchester United), Young (Manchester United).

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