Roy Hodgson has made a personal check on Wayne Rooney to assess his frame of mind as he prepares to name an England squad that will feature a return for Andy Carroll, a potential first call-up for Wayne Routledge and an invitation to Ashley Cole to take the captaincy on a one-off basis.
Hodgson will ask Cole as a "special gesture" if he wants to stand in for the injured Steven Gerrard for the friendly against Republic of Ireland on 29 May, to mark the fact he is now a member of the 100 Club as the seventh player to win a century of England caps. The England manager will then consider giving Rooney the captaincy for the game in Brazil four days later, having been assured by the Manchester United striker that his attempt to leave the club will not affect his international performances.
Gary Neville, one of Hodgson's coaches, has already expressed his own concerns that Rooney has "not been himself over these last couple of months and you can see something is wrong". Hodgson, however, is confident Rooney's England form will not suffer while his future is in doubt. "I'm not concerned about him," Hodgson, speaking before the Europa League final in Amsterdam, said. "I've spoken to him. I was concerned because his wife is having a baby not long before we meet up. But he was at great pains to assure me that he was really looking forward to playing for England, that it's top of his agenda, and that's enough for me. I've no reason to doubt that and no reason to doubt him.
"There are rumours circulating about whether he wants a move and whether Manchester United are prepared to sell him. These are all things that only Manchester United and Wayne Rooney know, quite frankly. As far as I'm concerned, it's what he does for England that counts and how he's going to perform in these next two matches and then the matches in the autumn."
Hodgson intends to name a 22-man squad and has not been tempted to invite John Terry back despite Rio Ferdinand officially retiring from international duty. Ferdinand rang Hodgson to explain his decision but would not have been included anyway when the squad is announced on Thursday. Terry, it has emerged, has also telephoned Hodgson to apologise for the flurry of recent publicity about him wanting to come out of international retirement. Hodgson is aware that it was the Chelsea player himself who had privately let the story be known and it also transpired the former England captain has regularly been sending him good-luck text messages before games. Hodgson's conclusion is that Terry is "still very much in retirement".
He added: "If push came to shove and we were desperate maybe we would turn to them [Terry and Ferdinand] again. But – and it's a big but – it's time to move forward. It's time for me to get behind the players who are there."
Hodgson's interest in Routledge stems from Ashley Young's absence through injury while Leon Britton, another Swansea City player, has been under consideration at a time when Gerrard is missing and Jack Wilshere is preparing for surgery on his troublesome ankle.
Carroll has not played for England since a substitute's appearance in the World Cup qualifier against San Marino in October but will make the cut on the back of his improved form for West Ham United over the past six weeks.
Hodgson, who named the Aston Villa duo Matthew Lowton and Ashley Westwood as players who had caught his eye, explained his reasons for wanting Cole to captain the team against Ireland. "It would be a special gesture. He's receiving his cap at Wembley and it's something for us to think about." Rooney, he added, "knows he is right up there" as a possible captain against Brazil.
Hodgson's plans are not made easier by Chelsea and Manchester City embarking on end-of-season trips to the US, meaning their players will not fly back until the day the England squad report for duty. Tottenham also have a trip planned to the Caribbean and Hodgson is frustrated that it impinges on his own plans. He has no issue, however, with Liverpool bringing forward Gerrard's shoulder operation. Hodgson believes it was the sensible decision when rehabilitation will take up to three months.
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