ROY HODGSON has included 18-year-old Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford in his initial 26-man squad for England’s upcoming friendlies ahead of Euro 2016, challenging him to “knock someone off their perch.”
The uncapped forward has been in outstanding form since the turn of the year in his breakthrough Premier League season, with seven goals in sixteen appearances, but will have his work cut out to dislodge Wayne Rooney, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Harry Kane.
Rashford is the standout name in the pre-tournament squad, which will be cut to a final 23-man group prior following the preparatory matches against Turkey and Australia.
“The competition is quite strong, he [Rashford] will understand that, but he deserves to be selected in this larger squad,” Hodgson said. “It will be interesting to see what he can do. It may only be for one week but I am pleased he has had such a good end to the season. It’s great to be able to include him. There’s no reason why he can’t knock someone off their perch but it will be harder than some people might expect.”
The provisional squad also sees Jack Wilshere and Andros Townsend earn recalls, with the former having starred throughout qualifying but not featuring since last June due to injury, whereas the latter has not been seen in an England shirt since a substitute appearance against Lithuania in October 2015.
Jordan Henderson is also included following his recent return to action with Liverpool, having been out since April with damaged knee ligaments.
Less happy will be Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Michael Carrick, and Theo Walcott, none of whom have been selected.
The squad thus has a somewhat inexperienced, even unbalanced, feel, with only three centre-backs and three players possessing more than 50 caps included, although Hodgson believes that Eric Dier is capable of filling in defensively if needs be, and is confident that the team’s youthful nature can only be considered a positive.
England take on Turkey at the Etihad Stadium on May 22 before facing Australia at the Stadium of Light on May 27, after which the England boss must trim an additional three names from his squad before they play their final friendly against Portugal at Wembley on June 2.
Their bid for European glory kicks off against Russia in Marseille on June 11.
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Fraser Forster, Tom Heaton
Defenders: Ryan Bertrand, Gary Cahill, Nathaniel Clyne, Danny Rose, Chris Smalling, John Stones, Kyle Walker
Midfielders: Dele Alli, Ross Barkley, Fabian Delph, Eric Dier, Danny Drinkwater, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, James Milner, Raheem Sterling, Andros Townsend, Jack Wilshere
Forwards: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney, Danny Sturridge, Jamie Vardy