Roy Hodgson thought long and hard about including Jack Wilshere in his Euro 2016 long-list and concluded the Arsenal midfielder was good enough to gamble on.
Wilshere broke his leg in pre-season and made his first start of the campaign on the final day of the season, having previously appeared twice from the bench.
At times his hopes of rallying to feature in France appeared to be almost non-existent, but he made it back on to the pitch at the last moment and was immediately on the England manager’s mind.
He sees the 24-year-old as a special talent and his fitness was one of the reasons the squad announcement, which had been put back four days, contained 26 names rather than a final 23.
There will be criticism in some quarters, and accusations of special treatment too, but Hodgson was happy to explain the full rationale at Wembley.
“The question I had to ask myself was basically: is he fit, actually fit to play? The answer is yes,” he said.
“Is he the type of player that could really help us as a starter or as a substitute because maybe he has different qualities to some of the others midfield players we’ve got? The answer was yes.
“The other question, how has he performed when we have been in competitive matches? Has he been a vital player for us, has he been a key player for us? Of course the answer to that was also a resounding yes because he was man of the match three matches in a row.
“The only question for Jack first of all to be selected in this group of players was are you actually fit? Are you actually able to show us where you are and what you can do?
“He has proved that and now he will have to prove to us in the two weeks or so I have before I have to name the final 23 that he is going to be 100 per cent capable of doing the job we know he can do when he is fit and able to play.”
Hodgson on Henderson selection
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was another player included by Hodgson after injury problems.
He was expected to be out for the season after leaving a clash with Borussia Dortmund on crutches in early April, but managed 26 minutes off the bench on Sunday.
Fabian Delph has been summoned to provide cover but Henderson, whose next assignment is the Europa League final against Sevilla, can expect to get the nod if he avoids a relapse.
“They’re people we know, people we know that can do the job, people we know we can rely on,” said Hodgson.
“I was delighted to see Jordan get back for Sunday’s game.
“The opportunity we have with our three preparation matches gives us a chance to really assess their fitness, with enough players around that if I decide they weren’t fit enough or weren’t going to make it to still make up the 23.
“The most important thing is I didn’t want to name people in our preparation squad that were unfit and had to be looked after by our medical staff, that we’d be sweating on them becoming fit again before the actual tournament starts.
“Whether they’ve played enough games is another matter. But we give them a chance to maybe, with us, get some of those games and get some extra training.
“I think the extra cover we have given ourselves, we’ll be finished with by the time we play Australia in Sunderland. When the players leave us for three days after that before we meet up I would like to be able to tell 23 players ‘you are on the plane’.”