John Stones, Jonjo Shelvey and Jamie Vardy will start England’s Euro 2016 qualifier against San Marino this evening, manager Roy Hodgson has announced.
Hodgson kept to his policy of not naming his full line-up for the Group E clash, but told a pre-match press conference the fringe trio would get a chance to further advance their international claims.
Defender Stones, who has remained at Everton despite repeated bids from Chelsea in the transfer window, will win his fifth cap, while Swansea midfielder Shelvey and Leicester striker Vardy will each win their second.
Hodgson reported a clean bill of health as England look to make it seven wins out of seven in the pool.
Vardy’s inclusion is a controversial one, coming after he was filmed using racist language in a casino.
The 28-year-old had to apologise for a ‘’regrettable error in judgment’’ after a video was published showing him calling a fellow gambler “Jap” on three occasions.
He was fined by Leicester over the incident and said he would undergo diversity awareness training. Vardy’s fellow striker, captain Wayne Rooney, is on the brink of history as he needs just two goals to become England’s all-time leading goalscorer and beat Bobby Charlton’s record of 49.
But Hodgson said results, rather than records, were his chief concern. “I do know for certain his main concern is to win the remaining matches we have in the qualifying group,” said the England manager.
“I certainly wouldn’t mind him not scoring a goal in those four games as long as we win them all and it wouldn’t surprise me if Wayne would say the same thing.”
Rooney added: “I think obviously the most important thing is the team doing well. It’s nice to score and hopefully I can do that, but as the manager said the important thing is the team.
“I am looking forward to the game, it’s going to be a good game for us and hopefully we can get the victory we want and put ourselves through.
“As a striker you want to score as many goals as you can. If I can get one, I will try to push on to get two and try and help us get more goals.”
On Manchester United’s big-money signing of Anthony Martial from Monaco, Rooney said: “It’s been well documented I haven’t seen that much of him to be honest, so I can’t really say too much on him. I saw him last season against Arsenal where he had a fantastic game, so hopefully he’ll be a great signing for us. He’s got a lot of ability from what I’ve seen and I’m sure he’ll be a good player for us.”
Victory over San Marino would book England’s place at the European Championship in France next summer and Hodgson believes there is no reason why England should not head across the Channel believing they can win the competition.
“There’s going to be 24 teams competing,” he said. “I very much doubt if any of the 24 are going to go into the tournament not believing they’ve got a chance to win it quite frankly, so why should we be any different?
“We don’t have those high-flying goals so far into the future, we tend to do things step by step. One of the things that we would like to do is to consistently improve our performances, get better organised, become a better unit, get to know each other better in terms of playing with each other and I believe if we can do that it will make us stronger and give us a chance.
“But there’s no need at the moment for headlines that Hodgson says, ‘We’re going to win the Euros’, because I would be really, really surprised if there’s one coach for any of the countries going to participate who’s going to go there not believing they have a chance to win it. We have such good examples in the past with Denmark and Greece that prove that it’s not necessarily the favourites who always win.”
Victory for England this evening would also leave them just three matches away from making it a perfect ten wins in qualifying, but Hodgson said giving new players international experience in the remaining games could take precedence over maintaining their 100 per cent record.
He said: “If we do qualify either tonight or against Switzerland then it’s not necessarily that I would put the perfect ten in front of the opportunity to blood some players in those [final] two games against Estonia and Lithuania. It’s a goal but it’s not the be-all and end-all.”