Friday 30 September 2016

Andros Townsend hits back at Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson over England call-up

Published 01/04/2015 | 09:37

England's Andros Townsend celebrates scoring his leveller
England's Andros Townsend celebrates scoring his leveller

Andros Townsend hit back at former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson after rescuing a draw for England against Italy.

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Tottenham Hotspur winger Townsend stepped off the substitutes’ bench to grab England’s equaliser in Turin with a 25-yard shot.

Merson had claimed Townsend should not have been in Hodgson’s England squad for the Lithuania and Italy games.

But Hodgson described Townsend as a “game changer” and the 23-year-old posted a message on Twitter:

townsendtweeet_3252633c.jpg

 In a separate TV interview with Sky Sports, Townsend then added: “Of course, I have been thinking about it all week. I have just been desperate to get on the pitch and silence a few critics.

“As soon as the goal went in, I was thinking of all the people questioning my call-ups and saying I should be nowhere near the England squad.

“Hopefully, that will keep them quiet for a few months and, hopefully, they can realise the quality I bring to the team.”

Injury ruled Townsend out of the England World Cup squad, but Hodgson has justified his decision to keep faith in the player.

“It's because of the qualities he brings,” explained Hodgson. “He's got that ability, Andros, to get turned around very quickly and run at enormous pace with skill at defenders, and that’s something defenders don't like.

“We've always appreciated that quality he has. In a squad of 20-odd players, there should be a place for guys like him because he's a game changer.

“You could say the same about Ross Barkley, another potential game-changer who came on and did extremely well, despite the fact he's been criticised for his performances at Everton. I'm delighted for the two guys. I'm looking further forward than any match against Italy, and I'm just hoping these guys are on track.”

Townsend added: “It was a nightmare to be at the World Cup and not play because I was injured. The manager stuck by me through the tough times and every time he has shown me loyalty I have repaid that.

 “I was delighted with the goal. It was a difficult game and hard to break them down. It was going to have to be a strike from 25 yards to score today. It was all us after the equaliser and we had chances for the equaliser. It is a good result against Italy on their home patch.”

Townsend and his England team-mates were forced to stay in Turin for an extra night because of a technical fault to their plane. The squad will now fly back at midday on Wednesday, delaying the return of the players to their clubs.

“We only know it's a technical issue,” said Hodgson. “That's all we know. It's put the flight tonight out of the question, so we hope to leave tomorrow. It's a shame because we like to get back straight away.”

Hodgson experimented with Theo Walcott partnering Harry Kane up front and captain Wayne Rooney at the top of a diamond midfield.

Phil Jones started as a holding midfielder, but England’s performance improved after Chris Smalling was forced off through illness and Michael Carrick was sent on.

“The first half was nothing like the performances I'm looking for,” said Hodgson. “We fell well below the standards we've been setting and the whole game was very much a friendly atmosphere.

“But the second half was much closer to what we're trying to do. There were moments where we played well.

 “I don’t want to criticise any players. You will have to make the judgements in that respect. In that first half, we experimented with Phil in the centre of midfield because we feel that, in a destroyer type role, that could be useful on occasion in the future. But Michael made a difference.

“We lost Chris Smalling to sickness and Phil Jones had to move back, and that helped us get back to our game. Then Barkley, for Theo, and Andros made a difference. That meant we took the game to the opposition and started to get some joy from the possession we were enjoying.”

On Kane’s first start, Hodgson said: “I thought he did very well. It wasn't an easy game, playing against three very experienced, tough defenders. It's been a good 10 days for him. He's scored on debut and played 90 minutes of a tough game. He'll gain a lot of benefit from that.”

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