Daniel Sturridge may have missed the final preparation match before Roy Hodgson finalises his Euro 2016 squad with a calf strain – but the England manager insists the often-injured striker still has every chance of making the cut.
In the final audition before whittling his squad down to 23, teenage striker Marcus Rashford shone by firing home 138 seconds into a man-of-the-match debut at the Stadium of Light.
It was a wonderful start to a friendly against Australia the hosts would run out 2-1 victors, with Wayne Rooney putting England further ahead before substitute Eric Dier turned into his own net.
Sturridge, like so often in his career, was reduced to a watching brief due to a calf strain picked up in the Europa League final, making him the only player still with the squad not to appear in either of England’s preparation friendlies.
Fabian Delph is already out of contention with a groin injury but Hodgson sounds hopeful Sturridge will be available for selection ahead of cutting two players on Tuesday.
“I don’t think he is that far away,” the England manager said. “Obviously, calf strains are delicate things.
“But he has done some work, been training [on Friday morning] at Sunderland’s training ground and will probably do some more work Saturday and Sunday.
“We’ll make a reassessment on Monday but I don’t think personally at the moment that it is going to be such a major problem.
“I am hoping on Monday he’ll be fit and he’ll also be throwing his hat into the ring for one of those places.”
Asked if he has got to be fit for when the squad is named on Tuesday or instead for England’s Euro 2016 opener against Russia on June 11, Hodgson retorted: “He has been fit for a while now.
“This is an injury he picked up during the Europa League final. He has actually been fit and playing for Liverpool for quite a long period of time – more so than say a guy like Jordan Henderson.
“This is just one of those things that is unfortunate, to pick up this injury at a time when he’d have loved to be training.
“But I can’t allow that to affect my judgement of him or my thoughts going forwards.
“For me to dismiss him on the grounds of injury that would need one of the doctors to tell me it won’t clear up in time for when we’re in France.”
However, Sturridge’s absence on Friday and the extraordinary emergence of Rashford does cause a headache for Hodgson, who, understandably, is thinking about the squad composition “non-stop”.
The England boss was planning to name it soon after the Australia friendly but will now be waiting until after the final training session on Tuesday.
Fitness concerns over Jack Wilshere and Henderson were one of the key reasons an enlarged 26-man squad was selected in the first place but the pair have seemingly allayed such concerns.
“They’ve played games,” Hodgson said. “Both of them are a little bit short of match fitness but certainly Jack Wilshere, the last couple of games, showed a lack of match fitness isn’t very, very evident.
“I thought he was very good in the first half he played and Jordan got through the part of the game against Turkey and the whole game [against Australia] without any particular problems.
“I will be pretty confident that in two weeks’ time they’ll be even fitter than they are today.”