England

Hodgson makes England plea

England's Roy Hodgson is unhappy with a host of players absent for upcoming friendlies.
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Roy Hodgson is urging English football not to lose sight of the importance of international combat.

The England coach is already having to cope with the absence of four key players for the forthcoming friendlies against the Republic of Ireland and Brazil.

More worrying though are the issue of post-season friendlies for Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham that will take away key figures from his squad and deny them the week's rest he was hoping for.

It means, instead of meeting up refreshed and ready for the encounter with the Republic at Wembley on May 29, Joe Hart, Frank Lampard and company will, almost literally, be stepping off a plane and heading straight to St George's Park for the start of the build up.

That scenario is not one Hodgson envisaged, leading him to make an emotional plea on behalf of the international game.

"I don't think I can ever stop emphasizing how important playing for England should be," he said.

"If we're not careful we're going to lose sight of the fact that, yes, the Barclays Premier League is a fantastic league and winning it is something quite fantastic to do and the Champions League and Europa League are big things too but international football is up there.

"You've only got to wait for the World Cup or European Championships to come around to see how vitally important people regard the national team.

"It really brings people together.

"You should never in any way debase the chance to play for England.

"If you're lucky enough to even get one game that should be something that should keep you going in your football life for a long time."

Hodgson is particularly frustrated because he asked for the matches to be arranged earlier than the official international dates in order to ensure the players got away on holiday quicker, knowing the demands that could be placed upon them by the World Cup the following summer.

"I'm not going to be hypocritical about it," he said.

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"Our thought a long time back was let's do it as quickly as possible after the league season and get the players back home for a long rest.

"My thinking, based on having been a club manager, was to let them have a week after the season ends, then we'll keep them a week and then they're free.

"We've been scotched a little bit by three teams deciding to go on long close-season tours.

"It's made in particular the first match a little bit difficult because some of the players will only have been back a few days when we've got to play."

They will also be heading back where they have just come from in the sense England leave for Brazil immediately after the Republic encounter to fulfill a date in the famous Maracana Stadium on June 2.

As ever, the players are the ones caught in the middle of that club versus country debate.

But having decided the two friendlies should be treated as essential preparation for key autumn qualifiers that will determine whether England actually reach Brazil 2014, Hodgson simply has to select the men he wants and hope they turn up in some sort of state to play.

"In the same way I can't have any influence over whether they got to the States or not, then when they come into my squad I can play them when I want," he said.

"Before the first game it will be a question of talking to the players and finding how they are."

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