Roy Hodgson will offer a glimpse of England’s future by selecting John Stones, Jonjo Shelvey and Jamie Vardy in his starting lineup against San Marino as his captain, Wayne Rooney, seeks to score the two goals he requires to break the national team’s scoring record.
Stones, who handed in a transfer request at Everton last month and was the subject of four rejected bids by Chelsea ranging from £20m to £38m, has been rewarded for his fine form for the Merseyside club and will make his first appearance for his country in almost a year. The 21-year-old is likely to start at right-back with Shelvey, such a key figure in Swansea City’s recent resurgence, to gain a second cap in a game which, if won, will secure England’s passage to Euro 2016.
Vardy’s inclusion is more controversial given the Leicester City striker had beenin breach of England’s code of conduct after video footage emerged last month of him abusing a fellow gambler at a casino by referring to him as a “Jap” three times. Leicester investigated the incident, fined the player and ordered him to undergo a course in diversity awareness. The 28-year-old, who had made his international debut in Dublin in June, subsequently issued an apology.
The Football Association has since indicated it is satisfied with the manner in which the club dealt with the issue despite it contravening the national side’s code. Those rules, drawn up by the FA’s hierarchy in 2012, instruct Englandplayers to remember they “are ambassadors for their country and role models for younger players”. “That matter was dealt with by [the director of elite development] Dan Ashworth, who took him to one side and spoke to him,” said Hodgson. “I spoke to him too, on an informal basis, after a recent Leicester game, and that’s water under the bridge.
“John is going to play tomorrow night, so that’s an opportunity. He played magnificently for us at right-back a year ago when we beat Switzerland in Basel, but he’s played very well as a centre-back at Everton. It’s good to have a player of that type capable of playing in two positions. All I can hope is he continues to impress. He’s done exceptionally well, and the way he’s handled [the transfer issue] has been fantastic. He’s been 100% concentrated, focused and motivated to play since he’s been with us. He’s accepted an offer went in for him from another club, but his club didn’t want to sell. That won’t affect him.
“As for Jonjo, when he got his first cap also against San Marino he was in another good period in his career, but a lot has happened since then. He’s left Liverpool, joined Swansea, improved all the time. It’s not unusual it’s taken him a while to reach the level we knew he could, but he’s still only 22. He’s a very experienced 22-year-old, but he can look forward to a long England career if he continues the progress he’s been making at Swansea.”
Rooney, a scorer here when England won 8-0 at the Olympic stadium in 2013, will expect to equal or break Sir Bobby Charlton’s 49-goal tally for his country against the side ranked 192 in the world. The 29-year-old, who has led the side to a pristine record to date at the top of Group E, is one shy at present and looking forward to making the record his own.
“It’s not something I used to think about until the last year when, all of a sudden, I was within touching distance,” he said. “It’s great to have this opportunity. I speak to Sir Bobby quite a lot. He’s at all our games, and he’s someone who is a hero and a legend for both United and England. He’s given me loads of advice over the years, but we’ve not spoken about his records. But I’m sure, if there’s someone he wants to break them, it would be someone who’s also played at United for such a long time.”