ENGLAND captain Wayne Rooney has urged the Football Association to tie down national team manager Roy Hodgson to a new contract beyond next summer’s European Championships.
Hodgson’s current deal expires after the tournament and FA chairman Greg Dyke this week reiterated that he was in no hurry to commit to a coach who oversaw England’s worst World Cup for 56 years.
But the 67-year-old has recovered from that dismal trip to Brazil and takes his team into tonight’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley with maximum points from four matches in Group E.
“Obviously that’s down to the FA and down to Roy, but since I’ve worked with Roy as manager he’s been fantastic for me and great for the team,” Rooney said. “Hopefully they will sit down and sort something out and we’ll have a few more years with him.”
Dyke has put a timeframe of nine months to a year on contract talks, effectively delaying them until after England’s qualifying campaign is complete, and Hodgson insists he is content to follow that schedule.
“At the moment we have an important task ahead of us,” he said. “We’ve got six qualifiers still to play, six matches still to win. Really what I’ve said all along is exactly what Greg has said, so we’re all singing off the same hymn sheet there.”
Rooney is just three goals short of equalling Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time record of 49 England goals as the Manchester United striker prepares to face a team ranked 94th in the world.
Yet talk of that milestone has been overshadowed by the possibility of a debut for Tottenham forward Harry Kane, and Rooney added his voice to those predicting a bright future for the 21-year-old.
“It is great to see a young English striker come through, scoring goals. He is working hard for the team. I hope it continues because he is in sizzling form at the minute,” he said of 29-goal Kane. “I think we have to give him room to breathe rather than smothering him and demanding a lot of him at an early age when he hasn’t played for England yet.”
Hodgson stayed coy on Kane’s prospects of a first cap, but expects to debut the newcomer either this evening or in Tuesday’s friendly with Italy and praised his performances in training.
“We’re very happy with Harry this week, he’s done well. The only thing I can certainly say is he’s not in any way damaged his chances of playing in the senior team,” he added. “People have to wait and see when that is.”
LITHUANIA: LOWDOWN ON ENGLAND’S FOES
Tonight represents a first as England have never played Lithuania in a senior international before. As such, the head-to-head record offers little in the way of pointers, but England are unbeaten against Lithuania in all seven age-group matches between the nations, winning five. Most recently, the under-21s beat their Lithuanian counterparts 5-0 at home and 1-0 away in qualifying for this summer’s European Championships.
Man of the moment and Tottenham striker Harry Kane, who is in line for a senior England debut this evening at Wembley, may just be able to give his new international team-mates some tips when it comes to sinking the men in yellow, having come off the bench to net the only goal for the under-21s in Kaunas just six months ago.
Lithuania have a population of just 3m and are ranked 94th in the world, behind such footballing giants as Haiti, Cyprus and El Salvador, yet they have won two of their four Group E matches. They started off with a 2-0 victory at San Marino and then beat Estonia 1-0 at home. Since then they lost 2-0 when visited by Slovenia and been thrashed 4-0 in Switzerland.
Familiar names are few among the visitors, with the only English-based player being 19-year-old forward Simonas Stankevicius, who is on Leicester’s books but on loan at Nuneaton. Defender Marius Zaliukas plays his club football at Rangers.