Lineker gives Ex-Saint Euro 2012 backing

Peter Crouch

Peter Crouch

First published in International

Former Saints star Peter Crouch has received the Euro 2012 backing of former England sharp-shooter Gary Lineker.

New boss Roy Hodgson is due to unveil his 23-man England squad tomorrow afternoon and is facing a number of selection dilemmas.

Choosing his strikers could be particularly difficult given that obvious first choice Wayne Rooney is suspended for the opening two Group D matches against France and Sweden.

Rooney's Manchester United team-mate Danny Welbeck is strongly fancied to make the cut despite missing his club's final two games with an ankle injury.

Darren Bent would have been a certainty too had it not been for the ankle injury that has kept him sidelined since February.

The Aston Villa man has confirmed he will be fully fit before the finals begin in Poland and Ukraine on June 8. But after such a long time out, Hodgson would be taking a major risk considering there are just two friendlies - against Norway and Belgium - before the France encounter in Donetsk on June 11.

Andy Carroll has made a late surge with his recent form for Liverpool and Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge has performed well in patches.

However, Stoke forward Crouch is the man Lineker would like to see involved, even though Hodgson's predecessor Fabio Capello never gave the impression he was a fan of a player he ignored from the home defeat to France in November 2010, even though the 31-year-old scored his 22nd international goal, a tally that places him joint 16th on the all-time list.

"I would be surprised if Crouch is not in the squad," said Lineker.

"He is a proven goalscorer at international level, especially against weaker teams, and there are a couple of those in our group.

"He can keep the ball and gives you a different option.

"With Crouch there is a tendency to want to hit long balls, which doesn't really work at that level.

"But it is only because he is so big. Technically, he is a decent footballer.

"I don't know what Capello's thinking was but I would definitely consider him."

If Crouch was picked, it would almost certainly end any outside chance of Norwich's Grant Holt making the cut.

Aside from Rooney, Holt was the highest-placed Englishman amongst the Premier League's top scorers this season, with 15, although his complete lack of experience in any form of senior continental football would appear to count against him anyway.

Hodgson has offered few clues to his eventual selection.

On two separate occasions though, most recently on Monday evening, the 64-year-old has said he needed to pay considerable attention to the players responsible for getting England to the European Championship.

Fifteen players contributed some part to at least half of England's qualifying games, a figure that includes only one keeper - the ever-present Joe Hart - and includes neither Welbeck, Carroll, Kyle Walker nor Phil Jones - so it would appear Hodgson's job is almost done.

The situation is not that simple though.

At either end of the experience scale, Paul Scholes and ex-Saints starlet Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have been talked about as possibles, whilst Hodgson also has to select a permanent captain, knowing Steven Gerrard is the obvious favourite but Scott Parker was the choice of interim boss Stuart Pearce for the February friendly defeat to Holland at Wembley.

And even that is a side issue compared to the conundrum surrounding John Terry and Rio Ferdinand.

Both are believed to have made themselves available for selection despite the summer court case to hear a charge that Terry made comments of a racist nature to Ferdinand's brother Anton during Chelsea's encounter with QPR at Loftus Road last October, something which Terry strenuously denies.

However, it has been suggested Hodgson is concerned about the potential for disharmony within the England camp and that, if he is only going to choose one of the pair, it was likely to be Ferdinand.

This obscures a telling comment made by Sir Alex Ferguson on Friday in relation to the Olympic Games later in the year that Ferdinand, now 33 and with a history of muscular problems, cannot play in two matches a week.

As England's Group D programme takes just nine days to conclude, it is difficult to see how Hodgson could be entirely certain of having Ferdinand available for all three games of a tough section that also includes Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine.

It is a tricky and unwanted dilemma for Hodgson to solve.

Excluding Terry and Ferdinand, Hodgson's central defensive options would amount to Gary Cahill, who is yet to confirm his fitness for Saturday's Champions League final, Phil Jagielka, who has struggled to win his regular starting slot back at Everton, Joleon Lescott and Phil Jones, who has not been in particularly impressive form during the latter period of the campaign.

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