Roy Hodgson has explained the reasoning behind his selections for England’s 26-man provisional squad for the European Championship.
Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford was the surprise inclusion among Hodgson’s picks for this summer’s tournament, with the 18-year-old not having even made his senior debut for the club until February.
Speaking after announcing his squad, Hodgson explained that while Rashford’s chances of making the final squad are slim, the striker deserves the opportunity.
“He is one of the contenders,” Hodgson said. “The competition for him is strong but he has had a fantastic end to the season and deserves to be selected in this larger squad and I am interested to see what he can do.
“It will be interesting to see what he can do, it may only be for one week, but I am pleased that he has had such a good end to the season.
“It’s great to be able to include him. There’s no reason why he can’t knock someone off their perch, but it will be harder than some people might expect.”
On the rest of the squad, Hodgson added: “I didn’t want to name people in a preparation squad who were unfit. I was pleased to see Jordan Henderson come back.
“Whether they played enough games is another matter,” Hodgson said, in relation to the inclusion of Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere. “To be honest, there’s quite a few players I would have liked to have less games.
“I was pleased to see Jordan back, and Jack’s been back for the last two.”
Explaining the omission of Everton defenders Leighton Baines and Jagielka, and Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick, Hodgson added: “Leighton hasn’t played for us for well over a year.
“He was injured for a long time and it’s good to see him back playing but in his absence people like Danny Rose, (Ryan) Bertrand and (Kieran) Gibbs have been filling the breach.
“Michael has played a part for us on a regular basis over these last two years and has been unfortunate with injuries but I’ve actually spoken to all three of those players and they were tough decisions.
“They’re players that I respect and admire but you have to make a decision and there are only 23 players so I decided that on this occasion I would rob Peter to pay Paul in the sense of taking seven defenders rather than the classic eight, to give me a chance to take one more player in the midfield and forwards section.
“Unfortunately that means no Phil and it was a tough conversation but that’s the kind of conversation you have to have, and I’m pleased I was able to speak to him before this announcement because I wouldn’t have been very happy if he’d found out from this press conference.”
Newcastle winger Townsend, who lost his England place while struggling to get a game for former club Tottenham, was preferred over his Arsenal counterpart Walcott.
“Andros was unlucky to lose his place in the squad when he wasn’t getting a regular game and he’s gone to Newcastle, got a regular game, and done very well there,” added Hodgson.
“Theo unfortunately has not got such a regular game over the last few months and has had a few problems with injury. It’s a tough decision of course but it’s one you have to take.
“We’ve worked very hard over these qualifying games to analyse and think about the players we think are right for this occasion and this time there are a lot of players who haven’t got a lot of experience in terms of international football.
“But I think that over the last couple of games we’ve played that they’re an exciting bunch. They’re hungry, enthusiastic and energetic and I think all of these things are positives.
“We can only hope that the faith we have in them is rewarded but the one thing I do know is that they won’t be letting anybody down for want of trying.
“Everyone enjoys saying ‘This is what I would have done’ but we’ve done a lot of work to analyse the players in the squad.
“As a coach, all you can do is prepare the team for one game at a time. We’ll see how far that takes us.
“With the youth of this squad, I’d like to think it will have a long future. We go there with a desire to win the tournament.
“I’ve got three matches before Russia. Who knows what will happen in those games?
“I don’t want the players to be fearful or be weighed down with any expectation. We’ll give it our best shot.
“I would like to tell the final 23 they are in the squad after the Australia game.”
England have three friendlies ahead of the tournament. They face Turkey at the Manchester City Stadium on May 22, then play Australia at the Stadium of Light five days later. They will host Portugal at Wembley on June 2, before opening their Group B campaign at the Euros against Russia nine days later.