Daniel Sturridge made a timely return to England training as manager Roy Hodgson prepares to end two players’ Euro 2016 dreams.
Fitness concerns led the Three Lions boss to name an enlarged 26-strong provisional party two weeks ago, with the squad now needing to be whittled down by three.
Fabian Delph has already dropped out due to a groin complaint and Hodgson has until the end of today to finalise his 23-man squad for France, with the decision on the pair missing out to come after training at Watford’s London Colney base.
The England manager had planned to announce his decision over the weekend in the wake of Friday’s friendly against Australia, but a change in tack will instead see him wait for the day of the deadline, leading to the media’s player access yesterday being scrapped.
Sturridge’s absence from the 2-1 win at the Stadium of Light looks to have played a key role in the decision to hold fire, with the oft-injured Liverpool striker sustaining a calf strain during the Europa League final loss to Sevilla.
Questions over the 26-year-old’s place in the squad were compounded by 18-year-old Marcus Rashford’s goalscoring debut, but former Chelsea striker Sturridge worked over the weekend and trained with the group yesterday, when Hodgson always expected to have a better idea about his availability.
“I don’t think personally at the moment that it is going to be such a major problem,” Hodgson said after the win in Sunderland.
“I am hoping (by yesterday) he’ll be fit and he’ll also be throwing his hat into the ring for one of those places.”
Asked if Sturridge has got to be fit for when the squad is named today or instead for England’s Euro 2016 opener against Russia on June 11, Hodgson said: “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 judgment of him or my thoughts going forwards.”