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Hodgson: Door stays open to benched stars

ESPN staff
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England captain Steven Gerrard says there are still opportunities to impress Roy Hodgson for a World Cup call-up

England coach Roy Hodgson has hinted that a lack of first team football may not be a deciding factor when he selects his 23-man party for the World Cup finals.

Hodgson is preparing his 29-man squad for England's final international friendly before the selection deadline in May, against Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday night. But he was eager not to rule anyone out and also insisted the game was not the last chance saloon to win a place.

Chelsea duo Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard are spending more time on the bench while Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley are not guaranteed to start for Manchester United. Hodgson admits it is an issue he has been dealing with since he first took charge but refused to rule anyone out.

"There is a trail of thought that the players who do play every week will by piling up the games," he said. "In my whole time with the national team I have always had to come to terms with the fact that, because especially our young players, play at top clubs they don't make their way into the starting line-up.

"I haven't had a hard and fast rule, I have never said I won't choose a player because he hasn't got a place in his club team at the moment, I have tried to choose players on their qualities and what they can do for us. Of the 29 there are a few who aren't playing regularly but I don't think they feel disadvantaged by that.

"At the moment Jose [Mourinho] has a job to do at Chelsea and has to pick the best XI from his squad of players, unfortunately for Ashley he is behind [Cesar] Azpilicueta but that doesn't mean that will be the case between now and the end of the season.

"If he doesn't get back in the team it is not going to change my opinion on Ashley Cole. I know what he can do, 106 caps for England says everything. It would quite simply be a choice at the end."

Of those players who are on the fringes of the squad, such as Southampton quartet Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert and Luke Shaw, Hodgson tried to play down the importance of the friendly in terms of his final squad.

"I'm looking for them to show that they take it very seriously and are anxious that I shall pick them," Hodgson added. "I'm not prepared to over exaggerate the importance, I'm not going to suddenly pick someone I wouldn't have picked because he scores a goal against Denmark.

"On the same basis I'm not going to leave anyone out who really and truly I haven't been thinking is a key member of our team because he has a poor game tomorrow."

Spurs defender Kyle Walker has officially withdrawn due to injury, which means Glen Johnson is set to earn his 50th cap.

"It is unfortunate of course," Hodgson said. "He [Walker] hasn't played for the last two or three games and we were hoping he would recover but he needs at least another week before he will be fit to play.

"He was with us last night, we had a 'Brazil' meeting to put our plans forward. There aren't that many defenders so there is a good chance, if you insist I tell you Glen Johnson will get his 50th cap at right-back then I can say yes."

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