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Hodgson ready to throw Ox in from the start

ESPN staff
May 17, 2012

England manager Roy Hodgson has insisted he is prepared to start Arsenal wide-man Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at this summer's European Championship.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was arguably the most surprisingly inclusion in Hodgson's Three Lions squad for the forthcoming tournament in Poland and Ukraine, with the 18-year-old having never previously been named in the senior squad, let alone be capped.

There had been speculation that Oxlade-Chamberlain might end up observing the tournament from the sidelines - just as club team-mate Theo Walcott ultimately did after his own surprise inclusion for the 2006 World Cup - but Hodgson has insisted he is prepared to start the former Southampton trainee at the tournament if he deems it appropriate.

However, Hodgson conceded that Oxlade-Chamberlain faces an uphill task to force himself into contention for the first XI.

"I wouldn't have chosen him if I didn't think he was ready to start games," Hodgson said. "It won't be easy for him to break into the team given the competition.

"But I've seen him play in European matches - on of the games where he sprang to my attention was against AC Milan [in the Champions League]."

Hodgson acknowledged that the selection was also made with one eye on the future - with Oxlade-Chamberlain likely to be a key part of his thinking going forward, the experience should stand him good stead.

"He has a maturity beyond his years," Hodgson added. "I think, sometimes, there has to be a place in the squad for a precocious talent. It will help England's future as well."

Hodgson also insisted he has no problems with right-back Glen Johnson, who was selected in the 23-man squad despite the two men failing to see eye-to-eye for much of the manager's truncated reign at Liverpool.

"It all related to a question I answered unwisely by answering honestly, which gave the appropriate headline," Hodgson said. "The question, quite simply, was: 'Do you think Glen Johnson is playing for you at the moment like an England international?' I said he didn't because he wasn't playing that well.

"As a result, Glen was a bit upset that I hadn't protected him more than I'd done. I paid the price for that honest answer, but I don't think that's affected my relationship with Glen. I certainly hope it hasn't.

"He was very friendly when we [West Brom] played up at Liverpool recently.

I'm hoping that, when he plays for England, the last thing on his mind is a headline in the newspapers from two years previously, when he knows quite well that, on a daily basis, our working relationship was as good as it could possibly be."

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