Roy Hodgson has lifted the lid on his decision not to recall Jermain Defoe to his England squad.
The Sunderland striker’s 15 goals kept the Black Cats in the Premier League.
I’m not saying for one minute that he doesn’t have the ability, if I needed him, to play for England. But there are other players, and these are the players we have been working on.Roy Hodgson
And there were calls for the 33-year-old to be recalled by Hodgson – whose England side takes on Australia at a sold-out Stadium of Light tonight, ahead of Euro 2016 – given his form.
But Defoe was omitted from his provisional 26-man squad, and fitness doubts over Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge have not led to an 11th-hour call-up.
If Sturridge fails to prove his fitness over the coming days, Hodgson is expected to instead take 18-year-old Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford, who is set to start against Australia, to the finals in France.
Defoe has not played for his country since joining Major League Soccer club Toronto two years ago, and he has been unable to force his way back into Hodgson’s plans since returning to the Premier League with Sunderland.
“Jermain Defoe, after the World Cup where he wasn’t selected, went to America,” Hodgson said.
“In these last two years, we’ve been working towards this tournament.
“Jermain, like many other players, has had a very good end to the season, and there’s no reason why a player of his ability shouldn’t be selected in an England squad.
“I’m not saying for one minute that he doesn’t have the ability, if I needed him, to play for England.
“But there are other players, and these are the players we have been working on.
“We have put our eggs into their basket. I saw no reason why I should break one of those eggs and take a fresh egg into the basket, especially as we’re talking about a player who’s well over 30 years of age and has a certain style of play.
“We’re really looking forwards to the people who are more akin to (Jamie) Vardy and (Wayne) Rooney himself and Sturridge (and) Rashford.
“That’s what we’re looking for, rather than the player who’s very good in the penalty box as a finisher.”
Defoe told of his “disappointment” at not making Hodgson’s squad earlier this month.
He said: “Obviously, when you are not in it, it’s a disappointment.
“I feel like I did everything I could do.
“I was delighted that we stayed up and, on a personal note, delighted with the amount of goals I scored.
“I’m quite relaxed about it because I haven’t been involved for a while.
“I always thought that to get in an England squad for a tournament is based on merit and, as a forward, if you score goals, you have a chance of going.
“So, towards the end of the season, I started thinking about England. People were starting to mention my name about maybe getting into the squad.
“But before, I wasn’t really thinking about it, I was so focused on trying to help Sunderland stay in the Premier League.”