Roy Hodgson has warned Daniel Sturridge he will have to fight hard to win his place back in the England team after going 13 months since his last cap.
Hodgson left Sturridge out of his squad for the recent games against Estonia and Lithuania, but will call up the Liverpool striker for the first time in over a year when England face Spain and France next month.
It’s been something of an injury-related fall from grace for Sturridge on the international arena for England. Having made his first competitive start for his country in September 2013, Sturridge was selected to lead the line for his country at the World Cup last year.
Sturridge was one of the few men to emerge from England’s campaign in Brazil with much credit. He scored the team’s first goal of the tournament against Italy in Manaus and looked a threat throughout.
But since then, Sturridge’s career with England has been nothing to write home about, with the striker having not played a minute of competitive football for Hodgson since suffering a thigh injury at St George’s Park after the friendly against Norway in September 2014.
However, Hodgson says he already has agreed to recall the frontman next month.
“I would like him with us in November. I have told Daniel that. It’s no secret,” the England manager said.
“I spoke to Brendan Rodgers just before he left the club and told him we would prefer to leave him at Liverpool for these two matches because we think it might a bit early for him and there was no point having him in the squad if I was not going to play him.
“Brendan agreed with me that was the best thing to do but I also made it clear that we are hoping he will get matches between now and then and by November he will be fitter.
“I have spoken to Daniel and I have told him exactly the same thing – that we are counting on him getting fit, getting his matches, getting some goals hopefully and be here in November.”
The landscape has changed somewhat since Sturridge’s last appearance for his country.
Harry Kane deposed him as the top English scorer in the Premier League last season and the likes of Jamie Vardy and Theo Walcott are pushing for selection thanks to their good domestic form.
Danny Welbeck is also due to come back into contention once he recovers from a knee injury.
For that reason, Hodgson is loathe to promise Sturridge – or any of his rivals – a guaranteed place in his starting XI.
“I think it would be ridiculous to say at the moment that anyone is a number one and for Daniel, we haven’t seen him for well over a year,” Hodgson said.
“I am not prepared at the moment to say Daniel is number one, or (Wayne) Rooney is number one or Kane is number one. Everyone is in competition.
“I am delighted Daniel Sturridge is back fit and playing but I know and he knows and Liverpool knows there is a bit of work for him to do because he has been out for such a long time.
“But we are really pleased he is back and playing and we are expecting him to be the player he was when we selected him and believed so much in him before the World Cup.”
Injured players like Welbeck, Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere, Michael Carrick, Fabian Delph are expected to be fit to partake in the first set of friendlies in March against Italy and Holland.
“There are an awful lot of players there who I think could really help England in a major tournament but first and foremost we have to hope they are fit,” he said.
So bad has the injury situation been with England over the last 18 months that Hodgson has been forced to use 33 players during a successful qualifying campaign that has led to 10 victories from 10 matches.
The competition will prove healthy for the Three Lions in the build-up to the tournament, Hodgson believes.
“There will be very good (selection) problems,” he said.
“And what is more the team gets on very well, everyone accepts there is competition for places. No one bitches if they are left out of the team as long as I explain the reasons why and what my thinking is.”
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