ENGLAND manager Roy Hodgson has admitted he only called up former non-league pair Charlie Austin and Jamie Vardy because his best young strikers are on Under-21 duty.
QPR target man Austin and versatile Leicester forward Vardy joined Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton among three uncapped call-ups for next month’s matches against the Republic of Ireland and Slovenia. Hodgson is without Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Saido Berahino of West Brom and Burnley’s Danny Ings, who are instead due to spearhead England’s bid for the Under-21 European Championship, while Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge is injured and Danny Welbeck of Arsenal a doubt.
“The space is there now, not least at all because of Daniel Sturridge, while we hope Danny Welbeck will be fit, but we can’t be sure, and of course we do not have Danny Ings or Saido Berahino,” he said.
“We’ve always had our eye on Austin but up to this point we’ve had the full quota of forward players. He’ll get an opportunity to show us what he can do in training and in matches, though I can’t promise him a game.”
Of Vardy, who was still playing non-league football just three years ago, he added: “Players who have pace and desire to run behind defenders are always interesting.”
Heaton, who impressed despite Burnley’s relegation from the Premier League, is the other new name in a 24-man squad set to travel to Dublin for a friendly on 7 June and then visit Ljubljana a week later.
Hodgson omitted Manchester United’s Ashley Young due to a minor injury and Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain because he did not expect him to recover from a hamstring problem in time.
Midfielders Ryan Mason and Fabian Delph and left-back Ryan Bertrand retain their places amid injuries to Michael Carrick and Leighton Baines. Hodgson insisted there had been “no conflict whatsoever” with Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate over the decision to allow Kane, Berahino and Ings to play in the junior tournament in the Czech Republic from 17-30 June.
ON THE RISE
Combined bricklaying with playing for non-league Poole until big break in 2009, and scored 17 in 35 games for QPR in debut top-flight season
Cost Halifax Town £800 in 2010 and five years later, aged 28, is on cusp of an England cap. Netted just four for Leicester this term but often played wide