ROY Hodgson will have the chance to start working with the bulk of the England squad for the first time ahead of Euro 2012 when they report to their Manchester base today.
Hodgson has had to wait three weeks since becoming manager to link up with new skipper Steven Gerrard and the majority of the players chosen to play at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine this summer. The conclusion of the Barclays Premier League season and the need for players to take a short break before the summer exertions has delayed Hodgson’s involvement with the squad.
It leaves the former West Brom boss just 19 days and two friendly internationals against Norway and Belgium to hone his plans before the Euro 2012 opener with France on June 11.
The players will undergo their first training sessions with Hodgson and fly out to Oslo on Friday for the game with Norway the following day.
It is the first time they have been together since the 3-2 defeat by Holland at Wembley in late February - and it will be next week before a full compliment of players is at Hodgson’s disposal.
The Chelsea contingent of John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill - plus stand-by player Daniel Sturridge - have been given extra time off after the club’s Champions League heroics.
They will not report for duty until next Tuesday when England link-up at their accustomed Hertfordshire base ahead of the home clash with Belgium at Wembley on June 2. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is also working to the same schedule after playing with a minor injury during the latter part of the campaign.
But in any case Rooney is suspended for England’s opening two Euro games and his first chance to be involved in the tournament will be against Ukraine on June 19.
Hodgson has still to decide whether Rooney will play against Belgium given that he has to make alternative plans against France and then Sweden. Andy Carroll, Jermain Defoe and Danny Welbeck are the other striking options.
The main injury concern continues to be Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker.
Parker, who skippered his country against Holland, was troubled by an Achilles injury during the latter part of the season and will be assessed by the England medical team.
Hodgson was optimistic about his chances when he announced his squad a week ago but will not make a final decision until May 29 - the date the final Euro squad needs to be submitted.
Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson is on stand-by should Parker be ruled out.
Meanwhile, Liverpool defender Martin Kelly will join the squad as cover for the Norway friendly.