LONDON (AP) — England coach Roy Hodgson has recognized Southampton's strong start to the season by calling up three players from the south-coast club for friendlies, including two who have never played for their country.
Striker Jay Rodgriguez has been included in the squad for the first time for the matches against Chile and Germany, having scored four goals for Southampton this season. "Southampton at the moment are becoming a very good club as far as England are concerned in terms of providing players," Hodgson said on Thursday.
"We like what we see there and this was a great opportunity. Now is the right time to introduce them." Southampton is fifth in the Premier League, six points behind leader Arsenal. Also among the forward options is Rickie Lambert, who has scored twice in his first three internationals. Midfielder Adam Lallana was called up by Hodgson for a game last year, but didn't play.
"We have been following him very closely and I think he has played a major role in Southampton's rise to the top this season," Hodgson said. England hosts Chile on Nov. 15 at Wembley Stadium, and Germany on Nov. 19.
Hodgson still sees Joe Hart as his first-choice goalkeeper despite being dropped by Manchester City following high-profile blunders. But Hodgson will use the friendlies to check out Fraser Forster and John Ruddy, saying Hart is likely to start only the Germany game.
"It's very important for me to show faith in Joe Hart," Hodgson said. "If I also show a lack of faith in him, which I think he would regard as very undeserving after what he has done for England, then it would definitely affect his confidence negatively."
While not critical of City manager Manuel Pellegrini's decision to drop Hart, it could be an issue if he isn't first-choice in the run-up to the World Cup. "I would be a lot more concerned if in the spring of next year as we are building up to the selection if he was a constant reserve, never getting a game," Hodgson said. "That would bother me but I will cross that bridge when I come to it. I firmly believe that Joe is such a good goalkeeper that he will get back into the Manchester City team sooner or later."
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Celtic), Joe Hart (Manchester City), John Ruddy (Norwich).
Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), Kyle Walker (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Everton), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Andros Townsend (Tottenham), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).
Strikers: Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Rickie Lambert (Southampton), Jay Rodriguez (Southampton), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United).