Roy Hodgson has hit back at Jamie Carragher over his claim it has never been easier to earn an England call-up.
Carragher said the influx of foreign players into the Premier League had left Hodgson with little option but to call up Dele Alli and Danny Ings for this month’s Euro 2016 qualifiers against Estonia and Lithuania.
“It’s never been easier to win an England call-up,” the former England and Liverpool defender said. “If anyone doubted that, Roy Hodgson’s latest squad proved how quickly a young player can be elevated.”
Alli is in contention to make his full England debut against Lithuania in Monday just five months after he was plying his trade for MK Dons in League One.
The 19-year-old has started just four Premier League games since his move to Tottenham and only made his debut for the England Under-21s last month.
Hodgson took umbrage at Carragher’s criticism on the eve of the match in Vilnius.
“I think you have to be careful with those sorts of comments. It’s not a situation where, the moment you kick the ball correctly from A to B, you’ll get in the England team,” the England manager said.
“It’s not like that at all.
“With Dele Alli you have to bear in mind the number of injuries we’ve had.”
Despite those injuries – to Michael Carrick, Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere and Fabian Delph – there is no guarantee Alli will start Monday’s qualifier at the LFF Stadium.
And Hodgson has made a point of telling the teenager it is likely he will drop down to the under-21s for the next set of internationals.
“I said to him that I’m pleased to have him here, he’s here on merit, and he can handle the pressures, but I did say to him that there’s a good chance you’ll be with the under-21s the next time,” Hodgson said.
“(I said) ‘don’t think you’re a senior player’.”
England will qualify with a perfect record of 10 wins from 10 matches if they defeat the minnows, who are ranked 116th in the world.
Over three years after making his debut, Jack Butland will earn his second cap in goal.
Phil Jagielka will lead the side for the first time as Wayne Rooney and Gary Cahill were released to their clubs following the 2-0 win over Estonia.
James Milner and Michael Carrick have also not made the trip to the Baltics so Jonjo Shelvey will start in midfield. Alli, Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana are competing for a place alongside the Swansea player in midfield.
Jamie Vardy is likely earn his third cap in attack. Theo Walcott scored against the Estonians but is expected to sit out the Lithuania game, so Harry Kane and Andros Townsend could feature.
Hodgson will pick his full strength team for the friendlies against Spain and France next month so the England manager views this as an opportunity for the fringe players in the squad to impress.
“We’ve had time in qualifiers to see a lot of players because we had a lot of injuries. Now we are going to concentrate on a core group who, if they’re all fit, will be with us in France,” Hodgson said.
“It won’t be a moment to give someone a chance because he’s scored a goal on a Saturday. People will have to work very hard to break into the group now.”
Hodgson said is hopeful the likes of Henderson, Wilshere and Danny Welbeck would be back for next summer.
“I’m optimistic these players will recover fully from injury and will have a period of time between their recovery and France, and I will be able to consider them,” he said.
“I know they have the quality and talent I’m looking for. I’m also realistic. I can only pencil them in. I have to hope for the best.”
Hodgson insisted he had no worries about playing on an artificial surface at the LFF Stadium.
“We’ve known it would be an artificial pitch since the draw was made,” he added.
“We were hoping that we’d have qualified by that time, and we are, so there’s no reason to complain about it.”