Sturridge more than content for Hodgson to start turning up heat

Explosive striker Daniel Sturridge insists the uncertainty over England’s front line for their World Cup opener with Italy in 12 days’ time is inspiring him to improve.

England manager Roy Hodgson at Luton Airport, Luton.

The 24-year-old is one of a small number of players in Roy Hodgson’s squad who appear able to conjure a goal out of nothing, as he did at Wembley Stadium on Friday night against Peru.

The Liverpool striker was the lone front man supported by a three-man attacking midfield of Wayne Rooney, Adam Lallana and Danny Welbeck.

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Hodgson had hinted beforehand that Friday’s warm-up game would offer the broadest hint yet as to his starting line-up in Manaus on June 14, with this week’s friendlies in Miami – against Ecuador on Wednesday and Honduras on Saturday – the chance for fringe players to stake a claim.

However, since then the manager has said that beyond the back five and Steven Gerrard in midfield, there are five attacking positions up for grabs with not even Rooney certain of a starting birth.

That uncertainty suits Sturridge.

“To be honest, regardless of who the manager picks that’s his choice and I’m just here to try and work hard in training and in the games and do what I can do,” said Sturridge, who has scored four goals in 11 internationals.

“That’s the same for everyone in the squad.

“There’s certain players in the team who have their spots nailed down but, in my mind, mine isn’t and I’m working hard every day to show what I can do.

“It’s about being comfortable being uncomfortable, and for me there’s no guarantees in football so it’s important not to worry about which team the manager picks and just work hard and leave the decisions to the boss.”

With Welbeck utilised as the left-sided player of a supporting three and new Liverpool striker Rickie Lambert the only forward option on the bench on Friday, Sturridge’s partnership with Rooney is taking on increasing importance – regardless of how Hodgson underplays his hand.

Whether the manager goes with a two-man front line or sticks with the vogue 4-2-3-1 formation, it is Sturridge and Rooney that the nation will turn to for goals in Brazil this summer.

Yet Sturridge believes the pressure is on the shoulders of all of England’s players.

“It’s about the team, it’s not just about myself and Wayne it’s about everyone behind us, the goalkeeper right through to the midfield,” he said.

“It’s about everyone taking collective praise, regardless of the great goals.

“We got a clean sheet against Peru, the defence played well and I’m just happy and thankful to be part of this squad.”

The scrutiny on the defensive pairing is perhaps not as intense as it is further forward.

Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka – who added to Sturridge’s goals in the second half – are the central partnership of choice, reunited again after Jagielka recovered from a hamstring injury sustained in February.

They have never lost in 12 games as an international partnership and have conceded only one goal in six competitive games together.

Sheffield-born Cahill said: “I’m pleased Jags is back and fit, he’s a huge player for us.

“He’s got training under his belt and now 90 minutes against Peru. We’re both talkers, good communicators and that’s developed over a number of games.

“Before the qualifying campaign it was relatively new with Jags; since then we’ve developed a good understanding and got a few clean sheets under our belts.

“He’s an experienced player in terms of caps for his country and the length of time he’s spent in the Premier League.”

This will be Cahill’s first major tournament at the age of 28, with an innocuous shove by Dries Mertens two years ago in their final warm-up game with Belgium ruling him out of Euro 2012.

“I feel comfortable and accepted on this stage, but there’s still plenty to learn,” he said.

“I feel as though my career is progressing slowly, but at Chelsea you’re seen a lot more, you’re on television every week whereas when you’re at a smaller club, no disrespect, you’re seen just once every two months.

“And working with these players at club and international level can only do you good.”

England touched down in Miami last night for a week-long camp. Hodgson confirmed that the calf strain Leighton Baines suffered last Friday was only minor and that every member of the squad would be used in the final two warm-up games.