Steven Gerrard: Name and shame England shirkers
Steven Gerrard has urged Harry Redknapp to name the Tottenham Hotspur players he says came to him to try to get out of playing for England
Steven Gerrard has challenged Harry Redknapp to “name and embarrass” the Tottenham Hotspur players who he claims did not want to represent England.
Redknapp said yesterday that he managed “two or three” players at Spurs who told him that they did not want to play for the national team. England captain Gerrard said Redknapp must not protect the players’ identities and reputations.
“I tell you what, I’d be interested to find out who those players are,” said Gerrard, who insisted that every member of the England squad that has already been eliminated from the World Cup has been fully committed to the cause. “If Harry is making a comment like that, he should name them and embarrass them. No one in this group wants to go home. No one wants to go home.
“Should Harry not name them? If it’s the case, it’s disgusting. For me, if a player doesn’t want to be [with England], he doesn’t deserve to be here at a World Cup. The comment is a comment, like ‘them’. ‘They’ didn’t want to play for England. Who? Name them. Is it Aaron Lennon, Kyle Walker, Andros Townsend? I don’t know who he means. Five years ago? Ten years ago?”
Redknapp, who was the favourite to land the England job ahead of Hodgson in 2012, told Radio 5 Live: “I can tell you when I was at Tottenham, when full internationals came around, there were two or three players who did not want to play for England.
“They would come to me 10 days before the game and say, ‘Gaffer, get me out of that game. I don’t want to play’. That was how it was.
“I’d say: ‘You’re playing for your country, you should want to play.’ They would say: ‘Nah, my girlfriend is having a baby in four weeks, I don’t want to play.’
“That’s the truth, so it makes you wonder. I think it is only going to get worse. You see the stick the England players get when they come home. They are earning fantastic money at their clubs and they are all playing in the Champions League, so they think, ‘Do we need the aggro?’ I still think we go to tournaments, whether it be Under-17s, Under-19s or Under-21s and there are too many pull-outs. It seems everyone has got an excuse.”
Redknapp managed a host of Tottenham players who had represented England while he was at White Hart Lane – Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Aaron Lennon, Darren Bent, Scott Parker, David Bentley, Jermaine Jenas, Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone, Jonathan Woodgate, Ledley King and Kyle Walker. Townsend played for England after Redknapp’s departure.
Both Gerrard and Hodgson absolved Defoe, the former Spurs striker who was among the players put on standby for this World Cup, of any suspicion. Hodgson said: “It’s certainly not Jermain Defoe.”
Gerrard added: “I’ve spoken to Jermain Defoe and he’s devastated. I can understand why you’ve asked the question, with Harry Redknapp a big coach in the game, but we need names. We need names. But it’s not here. I can guarantee it’s not here.”
Ben Foster retired from international football for 22 months, admitting he made the decision to put his young family first, before Hodgson convinced the 31-year-old goalkeeper to play for England again.
“Historically, in the past, Ben made a decision he didn’t want to be in an England team then, but when I asked him to come to this England team he wanted to be part of it,” Hodgson said. “I have to be satisfied with that. It proves the standard we’ve created is right.
“In the two years I’ve been here, I’ve seen a greater interest in playing for England, so Harry’s comments come as a bit of a surprise. If you make comments like that, you have to name them.
“I could name a player with an educated guess, but players? It’s unfair to ask people to look back historically. Let’s see how it will be moving forward. Let’s keep our standards high.”
Stuart Pearce, the Former England Under-21 coach, has consistently complained about the number of players he was denied at European Championship tournaments.
In 2011, he was angry about the withdrawals of England midfielder Jack Wilshere, defender Micah Richards and striker Andy Carroll. Bentley was roundly criticised for refusing to play for the Under-21s in 2007 and Wilfried Zaha was accused of not taking last year’s European Under-21 Championship seriously enough.
When it was put to Gerrard that ‘there was one very high-profile player at last year’s Under-21 tournament who was embarrassing’, the 34-year-old responded by saying: “Well, he should be embarrassed if there’s one player.
“When you go down into the younger age groups, they’re younger lads. They might not want to be away from their families. But when you’re picked at this level and find any excuse not to be here, you don’t deserve to be here.”
Hodgson added: “Let’s get to the Under-21s and the lower age groups. It’s up to us to produce the right environment and culture right the way down. If they realise if they start turning down Under-21 matches because they don’t quite fancy it, they’ll not get senior appearances. We have to make clear to players: if you want to play for England, you commit yourself for England.”