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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Roy Hodgson: I'd be happy to take Jack Grealish into the England squad

Jack Grealish
Jack Grealish

England manager Roy Hodgson would welcome Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish into consideration should he decide to represent England rather than Republic of Ireland Under 21s.

Speaking at the announcement of the England squad to face the Republic of Ireland and Slovenia next month, Hodgson said:

"It is important we leave it to him. He is a very talented player and has been on the radar of our younger teams. I have known about him and recently he has broken into the Aston Villa team, which raises the subject," said Hodgson.

"He could play for either country, which one is it going to be? As far as I am concerned it has got to be Jack's decision and his alone, we must respect that and should not be attempting to use undue influence. I will leave it for him to decide, and if he decides it is us I will be very happy."

Hodgson insisted he has every confidence uncapped trio Tom Heaton, Jamie Vardy and Charlie Austin can make an impact on the national team having been called up for the first time.

READ MORE: Jack Grealish on Roy Hodgson radar as uncapped trio called up for England squad to face Ireland

With the likes of Harry Kane, Danny Ings and Saido Berahino all set to feature for the Under-21s at the European Championships this summer, Hodgson has opted to use the friendly against the Republic of Ireland on June 7 and the Euro 2016 qualifier in Slovenia to take a look at some players who had been in his thinking over the course of the season.

Austin scored 17 goals for QPR, but could not keep the west London club in the Barclays Premier League, while Vardy struck three times in his last nine games to help Leicester complete their unlikely escape from relegation.

Goalkeeper Heaton, meanwhile, has performed well for Burnley this term even though they were relegated from the top flight two weeks ago.

"I am pleased (Under-21 manager) Gareth (Southgate) has cleared up any doubts as to who would be available for the seniors and the Under-21s. I'm very pleased with the squad we've been able to put together here, I think it's a very strong squad.

''In particular I'm very pleased to welcome three people who haven't been with us before but who get the chance, to some extent because of the Under-21s, because quite often we've used some of those players in our squad and it's given them the opportunity.

"It is a good opportunity for them to come and show us what they can do, and I don't think anyone would deny them the right to be there because they have had good seasons with their clubs, often in difficult situations."

Arsenal forward Danny Welbeck is included despite concerns over his knee injury and Wayne Rooney is selected even though he missed Manchester United's draw against the Gunners last week with a dead leg.

There is, though, no place for midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is sidelined by a hamstring problem and could miss the FA Cup final on May 30.

Hodgson revealed England "always had our eye" on Austin, but accepted "sometimes as national coach, maybe you do ignore players because maybe they don't quite fit into the dynamic of your group, or because you have had your eye on someone else."

The England boss added: "The space (for a front player) 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."

Hodgson added: "One would like to think playing for England is still going to be the dream of all inspiring English footballers when they get to this level, so if this selection helps in anyway, then that can only be advantageous.

"We only select players because we think they can win matches and do good jobs for us."

Vardy's inclusion, though, is perhaps more unexpected, for a striker who was playing non-league football with Fleetwood three seasons ago.

Hodgson said of the 28-year-old: "I watched him when he was still at Fleetwood and players who have that pace and desire to run in behind defenders are always interesting for coaches.

"His latter part of the season with Leicester through the 'Great Escape' has been really excellent."

Hodgson insisted there was "literally no conflict whatsoever" between himself and Southgate over the Under-21s' selections.

"There was never any doubt in my mind, if he wanted these players they would go with him," the England manager said.

Hodgson has opted against calling-up Ashley Young despite the winger's excellent recent form for Manchester United.

The England manager has retained Tottenham midfielder Ryan Mason, who made his debut against Italy in March, and Southampton's Ryan Bertrand keeps his place in the squad as Everton's Leighton Baines is injured.

Aston Villa midfielder Fabian Delph keeps his place and is likely to feature in the double-header as Michael Carrick is absent with a calf injury.

Raheem Sterling, whose future has become the source of much debate recently, is included in the 24-man party.

England, meanwhile, have this week written to all 3,000 fans travelling to the Republic of Ireland to remind them that political religious chanting which could be considered offensive to certain groups is unacceptable.

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