Three centre-backs are enough: Hodgson

Spurs midfielder Eric Dier had played in central defence for most of his young career, and can be a back-up for England for that position.
Spurs midfielder Eric Dier had played in central defence for most of his young career, and can be a back-up for England for that position.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Roy Hodgson has insisted that he is not taking an unnecessary gamble leading England into Euro 2016 with only three specialist centre-backs.

The England manager named a provisional 26-man squad on Monday that was loaded towards attack, with Marcus Rashford winning his first call-up ahead of Theo Walcott and Jermain Defoe.

He will also place his trust in Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill in central defence, with John Stones as first reserve despite a difficult season at Everton.

Hodgson was breaking from his usual practice, having named four centre-backs in England's previous two tournaments.

However, he was adamant it made sense because it freed up the possibility to take another midfielder or attacker.

"Eric Dier can, if necessary, step back and play there," he explained.

"That was his original position. He spent most of his career playing centre-back before he moved into central midfield."

Hodgson did, however, accept England were more vulnerable in defence these days than when stalwarts such as John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Jamie Carragher and Sol Campbell were playing.

In particular, he feels England have a shortage of left-sided centre-halves and wants the Football Association to look into the possible reasons.

"I wouldn't call it a crisis," he said. "But the four players mentioned were each top-class players and I'm not going to disagree that we haven't got those resources at our disposal today, albeit I do believe Cahill, Smalling and Stones are good centre-backs."

The 68-year-old, reiterating he would like to continue as manager and sign a new contract taking him to the next World Cup, also said the challenge for Rashford was to prove in England's warm-up fixtures that he does not deserve to be left out of the final 23-man squad, to be submitted on May 31.

Asked if it might be a case of "too much, too soon" for Rashford, Hodgson replied: "We'll see. That's always a danger, I suppose.

"The alternative, of course, is that because you're fearful of that danger, you don't select those types of players.

"If I'd have been that fearful of selecting players, I'd have missed out on quite a few good ones."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline 'Three centre-backs are enough: Hodgson'. Print Edition | Subscribe