ROY HODGSON says it will take much more than being the flavour of the month to make him look beyond the players that so impressively fired England to Euro 2016.
Teenage Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford and West Ham striker Andy Carroll are among those to have caught the eye in recent weeks thanks to their fine form at club level.
Rashford has netted seven goals in his first 12 matches in senior football and Carroll - part of Hodgson’s squad at the last European Championship four years ago - highlighted his quality with a hat-trick against Arsenal last weekend.
Hodgson clearly remains a fans of the Hammers frontman, but was quick to point to the attacking strength in depth he has available, and the job England’s players have done in qualification.
“We know Andy, we know his qualities,” the England boss said.
“In an ideal world, certainly, if you had a lot of places at your disposal you’d always include a guy like him because he is exceptional in the air.
“But whether or not I’d be able to include him with all these others, I don’t know.
“But it’s not out of the question because he’s English, he’s a centre-forward, he’s scoring, he’s a good player, so who knows?
“When the time comes and I’m looking at what’s available, maybe he’ll be there.
“But I’m certainly not going to pick him on the basis of he scored a hat-trick so therefore he has to be in the England team.
“I think that’s poor work from a mass media point of view that every time someone scores a goal and he’s English ‘why is he not playing for England?’
“Unfortunately, the answer often is they’re not playing for England at this particular moment because there are plenty of others who have done bloody well.
“And also I’d ask you not to forget we have had the best qualifying campaign I think England has ever had, with 10 straight wins.
“We’ve only lost (two) friendlies of the last six or seven and we have played teams like Spain, France, Holland, Germany and Italy, so we haven’t exactly been playing the Liechtensteins of the world.
“Maybe before we start wanting to throw out the guys who have done so well for the latest shout, the latest ice-cream flavour, we should show a little bit of respect to what they have done as well.”
Hodgson is not afraid of adding new players to the squad, with the likes of Tottenham trio Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier having proved very palatable inclusions.
The emergence of that young talent makes this an “exciting time for English football” and, while coy on his future past Euro 2016, Hodgson hopes the young talent is allowed to flourish.
“My hope for these players is that they are given that opportunity to continue to develop,” he said.
“Everyone is looking for the new star, the next Kevin Keegan, Bobby Moore, David Beckham - you name the player you want to name, you pick the favourite.
“Everyone is looking for that person but we sometimes that forget that the Keegans, Moores and even the Beckhams were allowed to develop without suddenly being thrust to the very, very top once they are in the team, only to be knocked down again two games later when they didn’t play as well.”
That increased profile leads to increased scrutiny on and off the pitch, as Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere can attest.
Wilshere, not for the first time, hit the headlines for his off-pitch behaviour earlier this month when he was pictured speaking to police in the early hours of the morning after a night out in central London.
Hodgson was not overly concerned about the nightclub episode - “I don’t know how big a disciplinary problem really is or was,” he said - but is pleased to see the 24-year-old edging closer to fitness.
Wilshere is closing in on his first Arsenal appearance of an injury-hit campaign, and the England boss is also closely assessing the fitness of several others as he prepares to name his squad on May 12.
“I think we have got a very interesting situation going ahead with four or five players, all of whom could quite easily be mechanically fit and capable of taking part of the Euros, but will be returning from very long injuries,” Hodgson said.
“I think I will have plenty to talk about, myself, Ray (Lewington) and Gary (Neville), when we look at the whole group that could possibly be there.
“There’s no disguising the fact that people like Jack Wilshere, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, for example, Wayne Rooney, a year ago they were five players who were getting into every squad.
“Things have happened to them and we have to reassess.
“If we can be sure they are at the level of fitness and capability to produce the performances they produced a year ago and we are convinced they can do it, they will be serious contenders.
“If we are not convinced, we have to give it some thought.”