Lambert hears England call as Hodgson is forced to accept reality
Roy Hodgson admits he is suffering from a severe lack of attacking options as England head in to a crucial month which could determine whether they qualify for the World Cup.
Hodgson yesterday handed Southampton striker Rickie Lambert his first international call-up for Wednesday’s friendly against Scotland at Wembley.
Given that he was joint-top English goalscorer in the Premier League last season along with Frank Lampard, it would be harsh to say Lambert is not worthy of a call-up.
But the fact that Hodgson has called up a man who will be 32 by the time the World Cup comes around next year again raises questions about the number of strikers available to Hodgson.
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Daniel Sturridge and Andy Carroll missed out with injuries this time, while Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe are both carrying injuries which put their participation in the friendly in doubt.
Other than Lambert, the only fully-fit striker among Hodgson’s regular crop is Danny Welbeck, who scored one league goal for Manchester United last term.
“We are short of forward players in particular,” Hodgson conceded.
“If you go through all of the candidates, you still don’t get to more than seven or eight.
“Then you are talking about people who might not have played [for England] for a number of years.”
Hodgson conceded that he was not overly worried about being without so many strikers for Wednesday’s game, but should a similar injury crisis happen in September, when England face Moldova and Ukraine in two must-win qualifiers, the Three Lions could be in trouble.
Indeed Hodgson admits England are not blessed with depth in most positions.
“[England coach] Gary Neville was talking today about the past and reeling off the names of ten or 12 class players who were vying for two positions,” Hodgson said.
“We are not in that position, we haven’t been in that position and we are not likely to be in that position between now and the end of October but I do belive the players we have are more that capable of doing their job.”
As well as Rooney and Defoe, Hodgson is also sweating on the fitness of Ashley Young, Leighton Baines and Frank Lampard, who are all carrying injuries.
That is why Hodgson has selected such a big squad and it also why he is not expected to field players such as returning duo Steven Gerrard and Jack Wilshere for 90 minutes.
Hodgson expects a bumper crowd of over 80,000 for the return of the oldest fixture in international football.
The most striking memory of recent fixtures between the two nations is Paul Gascoigne’s stunning goal against the Scots at Euro 96.
Hodgson is aware of Scotland’s victory in north London the last time they came in 1999, however, and other famous victories such as the one earned by the Scottish ‘Wembley Wizards’ in 1967.
Hodgson added: “What a rivalry there has been. Scotland have embarrassed England on quite a few occasions in the past and it will be up to us to make sure they don’t do it again on Wednesday night.”
Hodgson has a busy week ahead, having agreed to take charge of the Under-21s for their game against the Scots on Tuesday at Bramall Lane.
Hodgson, though, admits he is looking forward to taking charge of the Young Lions. “It’s a chance to meet these players and get to know them a little bit better because it is quite an exciting Under-21 group we have,” he said.
England squad (to face Scotland at Wembley on August 14): Foster, Hart, Ruddy; Baines, Cahill, Cole, Jagielka, Johnson, Jones, Smalling, Walker; Carrick, Cleverley, Gerrard, Lampard, Wilshere, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Young, Zaha; Defoe, Lambert, Rooney, Welbeck.