England squad: Roy Hodgson explains surprise Marcus Rashford selection after Manchester United striker makes cut

Roy Hodgson challenged Marcus Rashford to knock one of England’s established strikers “off their perch” to make his way into the 23-man squad for Euro 2016, and pointed to the example of Jamie Vardy to show how surprise selections can lead to great things.

Manchester United striker Rashford earned a place in the 26-man squad for the forthcoming preparation games through what Hodgson described as his “body of work”, saying that “everyone is excited about his potential and development”. While the 18-year-old is currently unlikely to be among the 23 players who go to France, Hodgson told him that he would make the cut if his performances deserve it.”

“There is no reason if he does exceptionally well why he cannot knock someone off their perch,” Hodgson said of the uncapped teenager. “That will be harder than some people expect, because the people who’ve played over the past two years have done a very good job for us. They are not going to be easy to knock off their perch.”

Hodgson justified his surprising decision by saying that he had to be brave enough to pick untested players in good form. Jamie Vardy made his England debut last June against Ireland after scoring just five Premier League goals in his debut season, before scoring 24 this year, winning the Premier League and the Footballer of the Year awards this year. Hodgson’s instincts had been proven right.

“If you are fearful there is a danger you don’t select them,” Hodgson said. “If I was fearful I would have missed a few along the way like Dele Alli, Danny Rose or Jamie Vardy. When I think of Jamie Vardy, he is now the name on everyone’s lips, but he wasn’t that man last June when I selected him. He was a major surprise and many people thought it was a strange decision, because he had only just broken into the Leicester team.”

Hodgson also justified the selection of Jack Wilshere, who has started just one Premier League game all season, by saying that he is a player of such talent that he is worth bringing in despite limited match practice. “He is a special player,” Hodgson said. “We don’t have lots and lots of Jack Wilshere available. He deserves the chance to show he is fit and capable of playing at the level  he was playing for us in the autumn.” 

Hodgson had to tell Phil Jagielka and Michael Carrick that they were not part of his plans, and those two, along with Leighton Baines, are unlikely to play for England again. While Hodgson’s England contract only runs to the end of Euro 2016, he re-iterated that he would love to continue working with a young squad that he feels is “on the brink of doing something good”. 

“I am available, I am ready to carry on and I am happy to carry on,” Hodgson said. “It would depend on what the FA wants and what the public wants.”

“It is not just a desire to keep working with this group of players, it is a really good position to be manager of England. It’s a prestigious position and one that brings a lot of pride and honour. Why would anyone, especially at this time when the England squad is on the brink of doing something good, why would anyone want to walk away?”

Hodgson pointed to the surprise success of Leicester City to show that even unfancied teams could win trophies. “It has happened in the past,” Hodgson said. “Nobody expected Denmark to win European Championship in 1992, nobody expected Greece in win Euro 2004, nobody expected Leicester to win the Premier League. Everyone has to have that hope, everyone has to have that dream, everyone has to have that thought in their mind of ‘who knows?’.”

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