Football: Hodgson unfazed by England striker shortage

England's national football team player Wayne Rooney (L) speaks with coach Roy Hodgson during a training sesssion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on May 31, 2013. England manager Roy Hodgson has dismissed concerns about the shortage of world-class striker
England's national football team player Wayne Rooney (L) speaks with coach Roy Hodgson during a training sesssion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on May 31, 2013. England manager Roy Hodgson has dismissed concerns about the shortage of world-class strikers at his disposal, ahead of Wednesday's friendly international against old enemies Scotland at Wembley. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

LONDON, England (AFP) - England manager Roy Hodgson has dismissed concerns about the shortage of world-class strikers at his disposal, ahead of Wednesday's friendly international against old enemies Scotland at Wembley.

Injury has robbed Hodgson of Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge and West Ham United new boy Andy Carroll, obliging him to award a first call-up to 31-year-old Southampton striker Rickie Lambert.

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney is also yet to play in pre-season due to hamstring and shoulder problems, but Hodgson cited World Cup qualifying rivals Montenegro as evidence that a lack of depth in the striking department need not be cause for concern.

"How many forwards do you want, at the end of the day?" Hodgson asked reporters in London.

"If you say to me, back in the day England could choose from 14, 15 forwards and they were all of top quality and great players weren't getting a game, we've not been in that situation now for several years.

"To be frank, Montenegro have got two very good forwards: (Mirko) Vucinic, who plays for Juventus and has probably got a transfer value of about 30 million and (Stevan) Jovetic, who's just been transferred to Manchester City for 25 million.

"That's £55 million (S$107.2 million) worth of talent. I don't know what they've got after that. I very much doubt if there's a Vucinic Two, a Jovetic Two, a Vucinic Three, a Jovetic Four.

"Basically they've done very well so far - scoring goals, playing well, topping the group at the moment - with Vucinic and Jovetic.

"You don't need 10. We need to make certain we've got four or five that are good enough and the most important thing then is they all stay fit."

The Scotland fixture gives Hodgson valuable contact time with his players ahead of the resumption of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in early September, when England host Moldova before travelling to Ukraine.

England currently trail Montenegro by two points in Group H and Hodgson says a fixture against their oldest footballing rivals represents ideal preparation for the crucial challenges ahead.

"It's good that in an 150th anniversary year, the FA (Football Association) have taken on matches against Ireland and Scotland," he said.

"You're never going to get an easy game against Ireland or Scotland. It's always going to be fiercely competitive, it's not going to be an 'After you, Claude' type of game, but on the other hand, do we need that?

"Perhaps it's just as well we're getting a reminder that any match played here at Wembley against any opponent is going to be very, very tough, and Scotland certainly is right up there with the toughest."

It has been a chastening few months for England, whose representative teams limped out of the Under-21 European Championship in Israel and the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey without winning a game between them.

Hodgson, however, warned against reading too much into the misfortunes of England's junior teams.

"I can't sit here and say everything is hunky dory with us because we didn't do as well in the two tournaments as we would like," he said.

"We're disappointed. We had high hopes playing in those tournaments for both teams, but tournament football is a bit like that - you get off on the wrong foot, you draw when you should win, and the next one goes against you.

"Sometimes we extrapolate a little bit too much and anyway, as far as I'm concerned, it's about the seniors.

"I don't share the doom and gloom and I don't have the energy to put up all the arguments that one could put up to defend the criticism."

Following Stuart Pearce's departure as England Under-21 coach, Hodgson will also oversee the under-21s' game against their Scottish counterparts in Sheffield, northern England on Tuesday.