London – England manager Roy Hodgson has told West Ham United starlet Ravel Morrison that he must prove his worth over several months if he wants to play at the World Cup.
The uncapped 20-year-old midfielder has risen to national prominence in recent weeks, netting superb solo goals against Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League and in England Under-21s' victory over Lithuania on Tuesday.
Morrison also has a reputation as a troublemaker, having been released by Manchester United partly due to concerns over his behaviour, and he was caught on camera pushing teammate Wilfried Zaha in the face during the 5-0 win against Lithuania.
His recent displays have nonetheless prompted speculation that he could be invited to join the England senior squad for their two friendly games in November, but Hodgson says he is not quite ready yet.
“Ravel Morrison has burst onto the scene,” Hodgson told journalists on Wednesday, a day after his side secured their place at next year's World Cup in Brazil with a 2-0 win over Poland.
“I know he's a player who interests you all, and he interests us as well. It's fantastic, the talent the lad's got.
“But I wonder if you wouldn't have been talking about (Everton midfielder) Ross Barkley had I not taken him with the first team and if he hadn't played in the games, you might have been having the same rave reviews about Ross Barkley scoring (for the under-21s).
“To be fair, San Marino and Lithuania Under-21s, it's not the same level as we're talking about with the first team.”
He added: “I think it's going to be very interesting to see in this next six months which of these under-21 players really mount a challenge.
“But I've got to say also that the (Danny) Welbecks, the (Kyle) Walkers, the (Jack) Wilsheres, even Ross Barkley, they've really proved that they can do it, so they've got a few of their own youngsters to get past first before we even start talking about (Steven) Gerrard and (Wayne) Rooney and (Frank) Lampard.”
Hodgson has been praised for abandoning his habitual cautiousness in England's final two World Cup qualifiers, a 4-1 win against Montenegro and the victory over Poland.
However, he said that the team's boldness was purely a by-product of players such as Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge and Arsenal midfielder Wilshere returning to fitness after spells on the sidelines.
“I think it's to do with which players are available,” Hodgson said.
“You know, Sturridge is a bold player. He's shown with Liverpool how well he can do and what his qualities are, but he's only just recently become available.
“The same would apply to Jack Wilshere. Wilshere's a great talent who can change games, but he can't help us and play for us when he's not fit and he's not there. And he's not been there.”
Now 66, Hodgson may be approaching the twilight years of a long managerial career that began in Sweden in 1976 and has taken in spells in a number of countries, but he said he was not looking too far ahead.
Asked if the England manager's position would be his last role in football, he replied: “I haven't given that thought either. That would be a bold statement. (Former England manager) Bobby Robson didn't, did he?
“When (fellow English manager) Bobby Houghton and I started off in our late twenties in management, the pair of us were going to retire at 40 and start a travel agency.”
Hodgson last experienced a World Cup as manager of Switzerland in 1994 and he said the experience had taught him not to trust the Fifa world ranking, which dictates that England will not be among the top seeds for December's World Cup draw.
“When I was called to the Fifa office when I was working with Switzerland in 1993 and told we were the second-best team in the world, I lost all interest in seedings from that moment on,” he joked. – Sapa-AFP