LONDON: England manager Roy Hodgson is putting his faith in the seniority and experience of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard against Moldova in the World Cup qualifiers tonight.
At a combined age of 68, the pair are hardly in the first flush of youth and it is a decade since questions were asked over their ability to play in the same side. However, with qualification for Brazil so delicately poised, Hodgson feels their experience will prove invaluable.
“Is it a reflection on Frank and Steven that they’re still playing?” said Hodgson. “You can argue that, but they’re under enormous pressure with their club sides too.
“They are playing at top clubs who are buying big players, but they haven’t been able to knock these guys off their perch. We’re not short of talent. But is this talent going to develop in the right way? Are we, in the England set up, going to be able to give them the opportunity?
“It’s one thing believing in talent, but selecting someone when they don’t play for their club is not an easy thing to do. You open yourself up to all sorts of criticism.”
Hodgson’s hand has been forced to an extent by the nasty head injury that has ruled out star striker Wayne Rooney.
With Daniel Sturridge sidelined by a groin strain that is also set to keep him out of Tuesday’s trip to Ukraine, England will name Rickie Lambert as their attacking spearhead even though three years ago the 31-year-old had never even played in the Championship, let alone the Premier League.
“It was a straight choice between Lambert and (Jermain) Defoe,” said Hodgson. “It’s partly the fact Lambert turned up fully fit having played the three matches. Jermain hasn’t played and turned up with a slight injury. That swayed me to turn my attention to Rickie.”
Hodgson has not only taken the unusual step of naming his entire starting line-up, he also allowed partners into the team hotel in Watford last night, although it appears they were kept apart from their partners overnight.
It belies a relaxed approach to the easiest of England’s final four games of the qualification campaign, which Hodgson is confident his charges will eventually come through successfully.
“I’m confident,” he said.
“Coaches are entitled to believe in their players, and I don’t need to be cowed by figures from the past. I’m working with a good group of players who have the ability, the desire and the wish to do well. I fully believe they will.”
England team: Hart, Walker, Jagielka, Cahill, Cole, Gerrard, Wilshere, Lampard, Walcott, Lambert, Welbeck.