Roy Hodgson: England manager dismisses 'easy cap' claims

By Phil McNultyChief football writer in Vilnius, Lithuania
Dele Alli
Dele Alli was given three minutes of action on his England debut

Roy Hodgson has rejected claims that it has never been easier to win an England international call-up.

Former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher made the accusation after Tottenham teenager Dele Alli was brought into the squad for the final two Euro 2016 qualifiers against Estonia and Lithuania after only three Premier League starts.

Alli made a two-minute international debut as a substitute in Friday's 2-0 win against Estonia at Wembley and will seek a second cap as England attempt to make it a perfect 10 wins from 10 in qualifying against Lithuania in Vilnius on Monday.

England manager Hodgson, who has used 31 players in qualifying, said: "With Dele Alli, you have to bear in mind the number of injuries we've had. When I thought of the group in June, and what it was going to be like in October when we play our final two matches, there would have been six or seven who would have been with us."

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson and Manchester City midfielder Fabian Delph all started in the 3-2 win in Slovenia in June but were out of contention for this squad because of injury - opening the door for Alli.

Players used by last five permanent England managers
Kevin Keegan1999-200041
Sven-Goran Eriksson2001-200672
Steve McClaren2006-200745
Fabio Capello2008-201163
Roy Hodgson2012-present64

Liverpool's James Milner has stayed behind to rest after playing against Estonia while Manchester United's Michael Carrick pulled out of the squad with injury.

Hodgson said: "People like Dele come in because an opportunity has opened up for them with others moved aside."

Carragher, writing in his column in the Daily Mail,external-link said: "It has never been easier to win an England call-up. If anyone doubted that, Roy Hodgson's latest squad proved how quickly a young player can be elevated. Dele Alli's inclusion in the group for the games against Lithuania and Estonia caused eyebrows to be raised."

Hodgson added: "I think you have to be careful with those sorts of comments because I don't think it's a situation where the moment you kick the ball correctly from A to B you'll get in the England team. It's not like that at all.

"But if you do come in and make an impact as a young player and there are a lot of injuries in the first team, there may be opportunities."

Hodgson, however, has warned the gifted Alli that while he has moved into the full England set-up, he must not regard himself as a permanent senior player.

"I said to him that I'm pleased to have him here, he's here on merit and he can handle the pressures," said Hodgson. "But I did say to him that there's a good chance he will be with the under-21s next time. I said: 'Don't think you're a senior player. You're an England player but that could be in the seniors or in the Under-21s.'

"But if he turns out to be one of the best players in the Premier League for the rest of the season, you'll be wanting him."

Phil Jagielka will take over the captaincy, with Wayne Rooney injured and Gary Cahill left out as a precaution against a back problem - the first Everton player to be handed the honour from the start of an England game.

Stoke City's Jack Butland will get an opportunity in goal as Joe Hart is rested while Swansea City's Jonjo Shelvey gets another chance in midfield. Leicester City's in-form striker Jamie Vardy is expected to figure at some stage.