ROY Hodgson says he won’t be afraid to throw Newcastle United’s Steven Taylor in against San Marino tonight.
Taylor was a late call-up to Hodgson’s squad for a World Cup qualifying double header after a series of defensive withdrawals.
And the 27-year-old – who captained England’s Under-21s – is competing with Joleon Lescott, Chris Smalling and Steven Caulker for a place in Hodgson’s first XI against San Marino at the Serravalle Stadium.
The game is followed by an away fixture against Montenegro on Tuesday.
One option for Hodgson is to play Manchester Untied’s Geordie midfielder Michael Carrick at centre-half, but Hodgson has faith in his defensive options.
He said: “It wouldn’t be respectful to the players we have here at centre-back to do that.
“Steven Taylor has played 29 times for England’s Under-21s, and helped Newcastle finish fifth last season.
“He’s also helped them get to the last eight of the Europa League this season.”
Taylor made his Newcastle debut nine years ago during Sir Bobby Robson’s tenure, and was due to be at the Newcastle United Foundation’s Hall of Fame dinner at St James’s Park this week before his international call.
Robson was posthumously inducted in the Hall of Fame, with Taylor’s club-mate Shola Ameobi presenting his widow, Lady Elsie, with the award.
Sir Bobby has been a huge influence on Taylor, who is hoping to earn his first cap after impressing for United on his comeback from injury in recent weeks.
“Bobby was a major influence on me,” said Taylor.
“He gave me my debut when Newcastle played Real Mallorca in the UEFA Cup, and my first game in the Premier League. I’ll always remember that.”
n Adam Campbell made his England Under-19 debut last night.
The Newcastle United striker, 18, came off the bench in a 1-0 win over Turkey at Telford.