England will face the Republic of Ireland in Dublin this weekend, with one of the chief areas of intrigue being which, if any, of the Three Lions’ recent left-field call-ups will feature.
Tom Heaton, Jamie Vardy and Charlie Austin must perform well against the Irish if they are two have any chance of playing a part in the competitive clash with Slovenia six days later.
Yet, when it comes to England players still to gain their first cap for their country at senior level, arguably the most interesting talking point around Hodgson’s latest squad is a player that wasn’t named in the party.
Against Lithuania, Manchester United’s veteran midfielder Michael Carrick once again proved himself the most astute operator available to the Three Lions chief, with an assured and businesslike display.
However, Carrick is injured as, unfortunately, is often the case, meaning that Hodgson has once again been required to squint into the puddle-like depths of England’s holding midfield options.
Despite the very limited amount of Englishmen playing in the position week-in-week-out, the manager seemingly prefers to turn once more to Jack Wilshere to fill the role, despite the Arsenal man having only recently returned from injury and seldom playing there for his club.
It’s perfectly feasible that Wilshere’s seldom scrutinised defensive abilities will not come under heavy pressure until England inevitably reach Euro 2016, but that’s no excuse for Hodgson not to even invite Jack Cork into his latest squad.
The former Chelsea trainee is, apart from Carrick, the sole genuine English holding midfielder playing in the top half of the Premier League at present, yet, even in a relatively experimental roster, he has failed to get a look in.
For three seasons, he was the glue that held Southampton’s midfield together, as testified to by the dramatic upturn in form that accompanied his return from injury in November of 2012/13.
Last term too, he kept £10m-plus signing Victor Wanyama out of the XI when the Kenyan (who had superseded him) returned from injury.
Sold to Swansea in January, in what must rate one of the strangest deals for a selling club in many years, Cork has continued to excel at the base of a Swans side who recorded their best ever top-flight points total under Garry Monk.
Yet, somehow, a player who averages 2.3 tackles and 2.9 interceptions to Wilshere’s 0.7 and 0.4 hasn’t had a sniff of a chance to impress in the withdrawn midfield role for the national team.
England are 11/10 favourites to beat Martin O’Neill’s men, with the Republic 12/5 and the draw a 23/10 shot.