Stoke City: Hodgson strategy may aid Shawcross in bid for first cap
ROY Hodgson is considering changing his team around against San Marino this evening to make sure he can play all his big guns in Poland next Tuesday.
And the England manager's balancing act could offer a chance to Stoke's Ryan Shawcross, who is hoping to win his first cap in tonight's Wembley game against the Group H minnows.
The Stoke player is one of four central defenders in the squad, along with Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka.
Hodgson is particularly wary of picking up yellow cards after captain Steven Gerrard was sent off in the last qualifier, against Ukraine, when Jermain Defoe, Joleon Lescott, James Milner and Glen Johnson were also booked.
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As a result, Gerrard and Liverpool team-mate Johnson are suspended for tonight's game.
Wayne Rooney takes over as captain from Gerrard.
Hodgson said he will be looking to utilise all of his squad over the two games.
He explained: "It is a decision to bear in mind, not only in terms of keeping players fresh, but also in terms of yellow cards.
"In that last game against Ukraine, the yellow cards were like confetti.
"It has cost us two players already and I would be a bit disappointed, in a game where maybe we are headed towards victory, if some minor incident cost me a player against Poland.
"All these things are going through my head, but on the other hand there are 90,000 people coming to watch the game.
"We want to put a good team out, we want to play well, we want to win the game and, ideally, we would like to score a few goals."
Hodgson is restricted because, as the game is a World Cup qualifier, he is only allowed to bring on three substitutes, rather than the six allowed in a friendly. However, he has dismissed the possibility of using Michael Carrick as a central defender.
The 31-year-old midfielder has played at the heart of Manchester United's defence this season because they have had injury problems.
However, Hodgson made clear the Manchester United midfielder wasn't ahead of Shawcross for a place in central defence.
He said: "Michael has done it for Manchester United and has done it well for them.
"But when you play for England it is also nice, if you are selected, that you play in your best position.
"With four proper centre-halves to choose from, I think it would be the wrong thing to do to move someone out of his position."
San Marino are ranked 207th in the world, but the England boss knows his team may have to be patient against a team who will pack their defence.
He added: "I think we are going to see a lot of attack versus defence. Looking at the videos of previous San Marino games, it's fairly obvious they rely on the rare counter attack. Their major concern is to get as many players behind the ball as early as possible.
"I am sure we are going to find ourselves a lot of the time in possession of the ball, but with quite a lot of bodies in front of us.
"I don't think it will be easy for us to break them down. We see in our own club football matches where sometimes a team has a lot of the play and a lot of attacks, but against a well-organised and well-marshalled defence the spaces and the chances are still hard to come by.
"But I am confident the players will find those spaces, make those chances, score the goals and we will get our three points."