Roy Hodgson expects Wayne Rooney back for Euro 2016 but warns he must earn place
Roy Hodgson expects to avoid the "unpleasant situation" of sweating over Wayne Rooney's fitness, but reiterated that England's captain has no divine right to start at Euro 2016.
Far and away the most experienced player in the Three Lions dressing room, the 30-year-old has impressed as captain since being handed the armband after the World Cup two years ago.
Rooney helped his country to qualify for this summer's tournament with a 100 per cent record, but doubts over his availability have been raised by the knee ligament damage sustained in Manchester United's defeat to Sunderland last month.
The forward is targeting an April return and, while unavailable for the upcoming friendlies with Germany and Holland, England boss Hodgson is confident of being able to take him to France.
"I am confident he'll get fit," he said at Wembley.
"I am confident that I won't have a situation where I have got the dilemma, if you like, of May 12th arriving and him still really not being 100 per cent fit, but he could make it if we take him to the tournament. That would be an unpleasant situation to find myself in.
"I do contradict myself at times - anyone who speaks as much as I do will contradict themselves - but in an ideal world I would only take players, really, who were at least mechanically fit and able to play.
"Whether they're actually playing and getting games, I can't do anything about that because that would be the decision for their club managers.
"Over the last four years, there's a lot of times where I have been picking players who don't play for their club teams but I believe will still be good enough to play for us."
This is the first squad selection Rooney has missed since the World Cup, although he sat out October's qualifiers against Estonia and Lithuania.
The captain remained with that camp until the trip to Vilnius and will again be around to help the squad for this month's friendlies.
"He's coming to see us," Hodgson said. "He'll be quite busy, I think.
"The mass media world realising that he is injured and not with us will be making plenty of demands on his time, so I think you'll be hearing and seeing him. We certainly will, he'll come and see us.
"But at the moment his most important job is to get fit, so his major focus will be on his rehabilitation programme at Manchester United, which I don't think is just a couple of hours in the morning. I think that's a full day's job.
"He won't have an awful lot of time to give to us and I don't expect that, but we will see him."
Rooney is not expected to make the trip to Germany for the clash with the world champions, but will be attending the Holland match at Wembley.
Hodgson has named a 24-man squad for those friendlies - and the England boss approaches those matches with the best selection of attackers he has been able to call upon.
Rooney's place remains safe, though, even if Hodgson bristled at the suggestion that he would be an automatic starter.
"I've never said he's an automatic starter and I've not ever said anyone is an automatic starter," he said.
"If you say does he have a good chance to be a starter with his track record, ability and experience? Of course he has.
"But that doesn't mean to say that he necessarily will be because he might not have recovered to the best of his ability, we might want to play in a different way, we might want to use other players.
"What I say about Wayne Rooney is that he is our leader, he's our captain - he has been very good at that job over the last two years.
"We need him there, we need his influence, we need his ability as well, but his ability will have to be proven on the field of play and no-one is more conscious of that than Wayne Rooney.
"Wayne Rooney realises that if I've got a choice to make and the choice happens to be that, 'In this game I don't think you're the right man for the job' or, 'I think these players better', he would accept that because he's a footballer.
"He's a leader and our captain. What I have said, and will stick with, is if he's fit, he'll go. I've said that but not as an automatic starter."