ENGLAND captain Steven Gerrard last night called on Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp to name the players he claims were reluctant to accept international call-ups.
Dismissing suggestions of a lack of pride among English players in representing their country following the worst World Cup campaign for 56 years, Gerrard put the ball firmly back in Redknapp’s court.
The 67-year-old – a one-time favourite to be England coach – alleged that “two or three” players asked him to excuse them from call-ups during his spell in charge of Tottenham, from 2008 to 2012.
“I’d be interested to find out who those players are,” said Gerrard. “If Harry is making a comment like that he should name them and embarrass them. Hand on heart, no one in this group wants to go home. No one has said to me they don’t like playing for England or they don’t want to be here. If [what Redknapp says is] the case, it’s disgusting. For me, if a player doesn’t want to be here, he doesn’t deserve to be at a World Cup.
“We need names. Is it Aaron Lennon, Kyle Walker, Andros Townsend? I don’t know who he means. Does he mean five years ago? Or 10 years ago?”
Redknapp, who worked with 12 England players while at Spurs, made the claims earlier yesterday on BBC radio. “They would come to me 10 days before the game and say: ‘Gaffer, get me out of that game. I don’t want to play in that game,’” he said. “That was how it was. I’d say: ‘You’re playing for your country, you should want to play.’ ‘Nah, my girlfriend is having a baby in four weeks, I don’t want to play.’ And that is the truth, so it makes you wonder. And I think it’s only going to get worse.”
England manager Roy Hodgson said Redknapp’s remarks were “a bit of a surprise”, adding: “In the two years I’ve been here, I’ve seen a greater interest in playing for England.”
Gerrard, 34, revealed that he felt “broken” by England’s elimination before their final group match against Costa Rica tomorrow, but insisted he needed more time to decide whether or not to quit international duty.
“I am still hurting very bad. I’m broken from what’s gone on over the last couple of weeks,” he said. “I need to clear my head before I make that big decision. I’ve agreed with the manager I’m going to speak to him in a few weeks’ time.”
Hodgson welcomed public assurances from the Football Association that he would remain in charge, despite a disappointing tournament, which he described as “bitter” and “very raw”, but declined to discuss whether he would remain in charge beyond 2016.
Hodgson, who plans several changes for tomorrow’s fixture, argued that England’s premature elimination had resulted from a “freak goal” – the late winner scored by Luis Suarez for Uruguay on Thursday, which followed Gerrard’s mis-header – and insisted it was wrong to draw brad conclusions based on 180 minutes of action.