Shelvey’s early-season form earns first senior England call-up
ROY Hodgson has handed Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey his first England call-up.
The 20-year-old has been drafted into the squad for the World Cup qualifiers with San Marino and Poland.
Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand has also been added to the squad as Kieran Gibbs has been forced to pull out with a thigh injury.
Bertrand’s inclusion for Gibbs was an obvious one given the Chelsea defender had been involved in England’s last qualifying match, the draw with Ukraine at Wembley last month. Shelvey’s presence at St George’s Park is slightly more complicated.
The 20-year-old Londoner has impressed in Liverpool’s sluggish early season displays and was initially called up for the European Under-21 Championship play-off with Serbia by Stuart Pearce.
However, Shelvey is suspended for the first leg of that game at Norwich, and Hodgson has taken the opportunity to bring him into the senior fold.
With Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick, James Milner and Tom Cleverley all capable of playing in central midfield, Hodgson does have options, even though skipper Steven Gerrard is himself suspended for Friday’s game with San Marino. It has therefore been suggested Shelvey’s presence at St George’s Park is purely to further his experience.
There is also a chance he could go back to the Under-21s for the second leg of the Serbia game next Tuesday.
The balancing act between keeping players fresh for Poland, whilst not giving them too much time off, is the most difficult thing Hodgson must negotiate this week.
San Marino have no Fifa ranking points and have won just once in their entire history – against fellow lightweight Liechtenstein in 2004 – and never in a qualifying game. Whilst it is famously remembered San Marino scored after a record 8.3 seconds when the sides last met in November 1993, it should also be noted England went on to get seven, adding to the six they got in the reverse game at Wembley.
It should be a fixture that dispels the myth there are no easy games in international football. But Gary Neville, part of Hodgson’s backroom team, is sure the players won’t be guilty of complacency. “The players are the managers of their own destiny when they get to this level,” he said yesterday. “They are experienced. They know the pitfalls of any game if you don’t approach it in the right way.”
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