With injuries and illnesses mounting and additional withdrawals taking their toll on Roy Hodgson’s England squad, he has called in three extra players for the FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifying game against Ukraine at Wembley tomorrow night. Theo Walcott and Daniel Sturridge have pulled out through illness, meaning that Hodgson felt the need to add to his squad despite not doing so in response to other problems.
The three players who’ve joined up with the squad at London Colney today are Adam Lallana of Southampton, Liverpool’s headline-grabbing teenager Raheem Sterling and a returning Tottenham Hotspur midfielder, Jake Livermore. Gareth Southgate has posited on Twitter that their selections were determined in part by a desire to leave Stuart Pearce’s Under-21 squad unaffected ahead of tonight’s vital UEFA Euro 2013 qualifying finale against Norway.
24-year-old Lallana has been the subject of extensive praise throughout Southampton’s climb back through the divisions and into the Premier League, and has been a key part of a Saints side that is generally accepted to have not been adequately rewarded for its three performances so far this term. Inevitably, his call-up resulted in the classic ‘unexpected England selection’ news story: he thought it was a wind-up.
Sterling has looked in effervescent form for Liverpool despite being just 17 years old, playing without fear and causing defenders serious problems as a result. His selection has angered some commentators, who believe that in-form Swansea City winger Nathan Dyer is more deserving and has been unfairly overlooked. Although I tend to agree with that, and Dyer isn’t exactly long in the tooth, I can see why Hodgson would bring Sterling in at this stage in proceedings instead.
22-year-old Livermore is a fascinating case. Spurs, Derby County and Ipswich Town fans will know much more about him than I do, and in all honesty he’s a player who’s managed to slip under my radar for the most part. This is largely because he has no history in the under-age levels of the England set-up, and Hodgson is the first England manager at any level to give him a cap – he made his England debut against Italy in August, coming on as a substitute.
With players dropping like flies it was clear Hodgson needed to bolster his squad, and it’s encouraging that he’s chosen to do so with players who might actually benefit from being rushed in at the last-minute and plonked on the bench with no prospect of playing, so there will be no complaints from me. However, one or two players at other clubs might well be feeling aggrieved this evening.