Roy Hodgson has urged the country to have faith in his young England stars after naming a provisional 26-man squad for the European Championship.
Three Lions manager Hodgson opted to select a larger pool of players ahead of the tournament kick-off due to concerns over the fitness of some of his players.
Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson have both recently returned from lay-offs, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck have already been ruled out of Euro 2016 through injury.
Hodgson said: “When we were thinking how many players we wanted there was even more uncertainty around Jack and Jordan than there is today.
“Both have got back into their teams and are playing and are medically fit. We thought it was better to add one or two players to the squad, we’ve got the three games coming up as well and for the first game we’ll be without the Manchester United because of The FA Cup Final and Liverpool due to the Europa League Final. We needed some extra bodies on this occasion.
“I’m making life that little bit harder for myself by having 26 and having to reduce that to 23 but you never know what will happen in a preparation phase so maybe some of these decisions will be made for me.”
The England boss added: “I didn’t want to name people who were unfit and we’d be sweating on them becoming fit before the Euros start. Whether they’ve played enough games is another matter. It’s never ideal with any squad you pick. You’ll have liked to have had players play a few more games before the tournament starts but to be honest there are a few players I’d liked to have seen play less games before the tournament starts.
“But on balance I was pleased to see Jordan get back for yesterday’s game. Jack’s been back for the last two games. This opportunity we have with the three preparation matches gives us a chance to really assess their fitness and there are enough players around to still name the 23 if I decide they aren’t fit enough.
“The extra cover we’ve given ourselves, we’ll be finished by the Australia game, when the players leave us after that before we meet up to go to Chantilly. I’d like to tell the 23 that they are the ones who’ll be on the plane and the other three won’t make it.”
Theo Walcott, Phil Jagielka, Michael Carrick and Leighton Baines have also been omitted from Hodgson’s squad, while Andros Townsend’s glittering end-of-term for Newcastle gave him the nod.
And Hodgson admitted it was tough to leave the quartet at home for this summer’s showpiece.
He said: “Leighton hasn’t played for us for well over a year – he’s been injured a long time.
“In his absence Danny Rose and Ryan Bertrand have filled the breach. Michael has played a part for us on a regular basis over the last two years and has been unfortunate himself with injuries.
Key pre-Euro 2016 dates
Weds 18 May: Squad meets up
Sun 22 May: England v Turkey
Fri 27 May: England v Australia
Thurs 2 June: England v Portugal
Mon 6 June: Squad departs for France
“But I’ve spoken to them and Theo – they’re players I respect and admire – and you have to make a decision. There’s only 23 places. I wanted to take one more player in the attacking section so only picked seven rather than the classic eight defenders so Phil has missed out but I’ve spoken to him before we announced the squad. That’s the type of conversation you have to have as a coach.
“Andros and Theo are both good players but they’re different players. Andros was unlucky to lose his place in the squad when he wasn’t getting a game for Tottenham but since he’s gone to Newcastle he’s had regular games and done very well. Theo over the last few months hasn’t played as many matches and has had injuries. It’s a tough decision but one you have to take.”
The deadline for all 24 teams to submit their 23-man squads is Tuesday 31 May and Manchester United’s 18-year-old striker Marcus Rashford is the one new face in the senior squad having been handed his first call-up after scoring seven goals in his debut season for the Red Devils.
Hodgson added: “Marcus is one of the contenders [for the full squad] of course. The competition for him is quite strong but he deserves to be selected in this larger squad and it’ll be interesting to see what he can do, albeit we may only have a chance to see that for one week before I name the final 23.
“But I’m pleased that someone who’s had such an outstanding end to the season – a young player who has a big future if he continues to develop – it’s great to include him.
“If he does well, there’s no reason why he couldn’t knock someone off their perch but I must make it clear that will be harder than some people expect because people who’ve played over the last two years have done a very good job for us in qualifying – they’re not going to be easy to knock off their perch.
“The squad this time is younger, there are a lot of players that haven’t got a lot of international experience but they’ve shown over the last few games they’re an exciting, hungry and energetic bunch with a lot of running in the team. All of these things are positives and we hope the faith we have in them is rewarded. The one thing I do know is they won’t let anyone down for want of trying.
“I really appreciate the support from the general public over the last couple of years but I would remind them the squad is still young, the 11 that gets picked for the first match against Russia will not have much experience if we compare it to previous England teams.
“But if people can show the same faith and tolerance as the coaching staff who knows where that’ll lead us.”