Avoiding risk of malaria forces Hodgson’s hand over tablets

Roy Hodgson faces the media yesterday, four days ahead of England's opening World Cup fixture (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA).
Roy Hodgson faces the media yesterday, four days ahead of England's opening World Cup fixture (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA).
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Roy Hodgson is not a fan of anti-malaria tablets, but he insists he has no option but to issue the pills to his players despite the potentially-damaging side-effects.

England will head to the jungle city of Manaus tomorrow ahead of their World Cup opener against Italy 48 hours later.

Their players all took anti-malaria tablets Malarone yesterday morning at breakfast.

Generally, one in 10 people experiences side-effects like stomach cramps, sickness and dizziness after taking the pills.

The last thing Hodgson wants is to lose one of his players to illness, but the England manager has been compelled to issue the anti-malarials to his players.

He said: “As far as I’m concerned, I’ve got to go with medical opinion and if the doctors are telling me that when we go to Manaus the players must take malaria tablets, whether it has side-effects or not, what do I do?

“I can’t turn around and say we will not take malaria tablets because the bottom line is better stomach cramps or whatever it is for one player in 10 than have someone contract malaria because that would be unthinkable.”

Hodgson did not take any anti-malaria drugs before a trip to Manaus last year, but it is understood he will do so this time around.

“I went to Manaus and I didn’t take any for the two days I spent there,” he said.

“That might just be something to do with the fact that I’m not a football player.”

After consulting FIFA’s chief medical officer, Professor Dr Jiri Dvorak, England have decided not to have their yellow fever jabs.

Hodgson has been impressed with what he has seen from his players during the first two days of preparation at their Urca military base in Rio.

Hodgson reported yesterday that captain Steven Gerrard will be fit to take on the Italians despite a minor groin problem, and there are no fresh injury concerns for the England manager, who has virtually selected his team for the match.

The only major question that needs answering concerns which three players line up behind lone striker Daniel Sturridge.

Wayne Rooney is certain to be one of them. Hodgson has Danny Welbeck, James Milner, Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana to choose from for the other two places.

Despite only playing 39 minutes in the three warm-up games, Sterling looks to be in pole position to take one of the two slots.

“If I select him, it won’t be a risk that he hasn’t played so many minutes,” Hodgson said.

“It was unfortunate that he couldn’t play the (Honduras) game (because of suspension), but I can tell you that Raheem Sterling is very much in the group of players I’m considering.”

Hodgson has been excited by the likes of Sterling, Barkley and Lallana – who have just 14 caps between them – but the England boss knows they still have a way to go to prove they are worthy of the highest acclaim.

“We have a lot of potential, we have a lot of excitement, a lot of belief in this potential,” said the manager.

“But I must advise some kind of caution because, as you know, the players haven’t had much chance in an England shirt to show that potential can be realised.

“I personally think it will be, but before we build people up too much and say how wonderful these young players are, let’s see some very good performances in an England shirt first.”