Youngsters making life difficult for big stars

ON a night when a host of England’s established players are expected to return to the starting line-up, Roy Hodgson insists the rapid development of the nation’s youngsters means the star names will soon find it “harder and harder” to hold onto their place.

Captain Steven Gerrard is set to lead the list of returnees as the Three Lions take on Poland in their final World Cup qualifier of the year.

Victory in Warsaw will leave England firmly in charge of Group H, hence why Hodgson plans to make wholesale changes from the team that beat minnows San Marino with Glen Johnson, James Milner, Ashley Cole and Jermain Defoe set to join Gerrard in the starting XI.

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The likes of Danny Welbeck, who scored twice in Friday’s 5-0 win over San Marino, and Tom Cleverley may feel particularly hard done to but Hodgson insists their time will come.

He said: “There are some very good young players coming on to the scene and the experienced players will find it harder and harder to fight off the challenge of these younger players.

“I think the turnover of players since the World Cup was probably necessary. Players can’t go on and on.

“In a country like England, it is good, without having a totally fresh start, that you do start thinking, are there alternatives out there? Is there another route we could possibly take to achieve our goals?

“We have started to embark on that route ourselves. There are a lot of younger players, either in their teams at the moment or just about to break in, who will be important players.

“It is important to start introducing those to the national team as soon as possible. At the moment, they might get a chance in friendly matches because some of the senior players are still going strong.

“But it is good when they get a chance to play against Italy, Moldova and San Marino, that they don’t let the team down.”

Hodgson is aware of the significance of England obtaining a positive result in Warsaw, particularly as they will not return to qualifying action for five months.

He said: “We were aware when the draw was made that Poland and Ukraine were important fixtures.

“If we can take more points from them than they take from us, it gives us a great advantage.

“Because it is five months until the next qualifier, it will make a victory now that much sweeter and a defeat that much more painful.

“It is the same as when a club team loses or wins before an international break, except at this level the gap before you play again is considerably longer.”