England boss Roy Hodgson claims he was was watching Danny Drinkwater last season while Leicester were battling to avoid relegation.
Hodgson, who earlier this month claimed he had been “watching Marcus Rashford for two years”, on Thursday handed the uncapped Drinkwater a first call-up and insisted there is still time for players to force their way into his thinking for this summer’s European Championships.
Drinkwater’s exceptional form for the Barclays Premier League leaders has seen him called into Hodgson’s 24-man squad for a friendly with world champions Germany in Berlin next week and a glamour tie with Holland at Wembley.
The 26-year-old’s selection, at the expense of Manchester United’s Michael Carrick, shows there is still a chance to break into Hodgson’s plans before he names his squad for the Euro 2016 finals in France on May 12.
“What he has done has been pretty evident to everybody,” Hodgson said of Drinkwater.
“He’s had a fantastic season in a team that’s having a fantastic season. Even last year we were aware of him.
“In that area of the field, in midfield, the competition is quite fierce. On this occasion I thought it was an opportunity to bring him in and see if he can reproduce the type of football and the quality he’s shown for Leicester at international level.”
And Hodgson refused to rule out further newcomers.
The 68-year-old added: “At the moment we’re looking at a fairly large group, with this group of players, but who knows? There’s still five or six weeks left of the season. Let’s leave the door open.
“Players are emerging all the time. They are knocking on the door and sometimes they knock very, very heavily on the door.
“It’s not bashing through a plywood door to get in because the competition’s not strong. The competition is strong, so you have to knock very hard.
“In the case of (Danny) Rose, (Ryan) Bertrand, certainly Danny Drinkwater – and previously Jamie Vardy, Dele Alli, Eric Dier – these are people who have knocked so hard they deserve to be brought in.”
Hodgson pointed to the example at left-back, where he overlooked Everton’s Leighton Baines and Kieran Gibbs of Arsenal to look at Tottenham’s Rose and Bertrand of Southampton.
Rose and Drinkwater, who has not represented England since under-19 level, are the only uncapped members of the squad, although the Spurs full-back has been in previous selections.
“On this occasion I deliberately ignored Kieran and Leighton, because I know their qualities and come May I’ll be in a position to still include them, if I want to,” Hodgson added.
“I chose to take Danny Rose and Ryan Bertrand, who appeared with us later than those other two – two players we know a little bit less.
“Michael Carrick I spoke to (on Wednesday) night. We brought Danny Drinkwater in this time. I didn’t want to bring in Michael unless I was going to play him. That doesn’t mean to say he’s disappeared off the list.
“They’re players who have been with us and who deserve consideration. Phil Jones is still injured and we’ve got all the other injured players.”
West Ham’s Mark Noble and Aaron Cresswell were among those to miss out, having been touted for possible call-ups, while the injured players include captain Wayne Rooney and Arsenal pair Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Two players back from injuries are Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge and Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck, who are part of a five-strong strike force which includes Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Vardy of Leicester and Arsenal’s Theo Walcott.
On Sturridge, Hodgson said: “We won’t be, I don’t think, looking to take extra special care of him, any more than we do so with all our players.
“I’m hoping now he’s got over the traumatic period he’s had over the last year and a half and he’ll be once again the player we had in the spring of 2014.”
Hodgson is optimistic of success this summer, while also urging caution at heaping pressure on inexperienced members of his squad.
“We need to be a little bit careful before we say that Jamie Vardy’s going to win us the Euros or Harry Kane or Dele Alli,” Hodgson said.
“Because you’re putting an increased pressure on their shoulders that their CVs don’t allow them to bear.
“(But) we have a platform for the England team to do well. We hope that it’s going to be this summer. If not, I still think that platform will serve England well in the years to come.”