LONDON (AFP) - England football manager Roy Hodgson has spoken out against a petition signed by 10,000 people calling for him to drop Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley from his squad.
The 24-year-old has been the target of criticism over his performances for United this season, but he remains a mainstay of the national squad and has been selected for their friendly against Denmark later on Wednesday.
His most recent call-up prompted one fan to create an online petition calling for the 24-year-old to be "banned" for the World Cup, asserting that the central midfielder does not possess "any genuine qualities".
However, Hodgson, who has awarded Cleverley 13 caps, feels the criticism is unhelpful and misguided.
"That petition does not impress me, I must admit," he said. "I'm disappointed that Tom, as a sensitive young man, has got to bear that burden, but I know one thing - he will come through it and when he does come through it and Manchester United start winning again, and he's starting to get praise for his performances, he'll be stronger for it."
Cleverley recently claimed that he had been made a "scapegoat" for United's poor form, but Hodgson says that he remains a valued member of the England squad.
"The fact is Tom Cleverley, from the moment the Euros (Euro 2012) ended, has been a part of the England set-up, he's played some very good games for us, he's been a very useful member of our group," said Hodgson.
"Quite frankly, I saw no reason, when selecting a larger group of players here (for the Denmark game), to leave him out of the team because, perhaps at this moment in time, his team isn't doing well and he's receiving criticism for it."
Meanwhile, Hodgson has revealed that left-back Leighton Baines will be rested for the Denmark game, with Chelsea's Ashley Cole and uncapped Southampton teenager Luke Shaw competing for the right to start in his absence.
"I've spoken to Leighton and he won't feature tomorrow (Wednesday), unless we get an incredible number of injuries," Hodgson said on Tuesday.
"All three of them want to play, but even with substitutions I can't fit in three left-backs.
"It's the right moment in this game to look at one of or both Luke and Ashley Cole, as Leighton has been playing regularly for us. The two I need to look at in an England shirt are Ashley and Luke."