England manager Roy Hodgson is pleased “special player” Daniel Sturridge repaid the faith shown in him after doubts over his Euro 2016 fitness.
Injured for much of Liverpool’s season and reduced to a watching brief as England’s Group B opener against Russia finished 1-1, the 26-year-old was thrown on for the second half against Wales along with Jamie Vardy.
The half-time lead given to Chris Coleman’s men by Gareth Bale’s 35-yard free-kick was wiped out shortly after the restart by Vardy before Sturridge notched a memorable stoppage-time winner.
“He’s a special player, there’s no doubt about that,” Hodgson said of the latter.
“I’m pleased for him because he had that injury, there was speculation and questions if he was the right player to be in the 23 – ‘should he go?’ – and I’m delighted that I showed confidence in him because he’s not let me down very often.
“We’ve taken a lot of attacking players with us on this occasion, so the options are there.
“I’m looking behind me on the bench and thinking, ‘Who do I want? Do I want Sturridge on? Vardy? Rashford? Can I bring someone on in midfield to manipulate the ball, etc?’ – which I’m hoping in the future could be very useful for us going further in the tournament.”
Sturridge’s place in the 23-man squad had been in doubt due to a calf complaint during the preparation camp, but the Liverpool striker repaid his manager in spades at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis.
And Adam Lallana, his team-mate with club and country, said: “It’s difficult for anyone when you have faced a lot of injuries but that was the fittest I have seen him for a while, even including towards the back end of the season for Liverpool.
“He just seems to be getting fitter and fitter and he was looking very dangerous against Wales, which is great for us. He showed what a vital player he is for us.”