Andy Carroll's hopes of forcing his way into England's UEFA EURO 2012 starting line-up were boosted on Friday after manager Roy Hodgson confirmed the striker will start this weekend's friendly against Norway.
With England due to face France in their opening game of the EURO in just over a fortnight, it is looking increasingly likely Carroll will start against Les Bleus in the absence of the suspended Wayne Rooney.
The 23-year-old Liverpool striker finished the season strongly and has impressed Hodgson since joining up with the England squad this week. Hodgson told reporters at a press conference on Friday that Carroll would start for England in Saturday's game at the Ullevaal Stadium.
"Andy ended the season well and that was after a difficult start at Liverpool," Hodgson told a pre-match press conference. "He ended the season well and he has continued in the same vein with us."
Newly re-appointed England captain Steven Gerrard also gave a glowing appraisal of his Liverpool team-mate's attacking potency. "Andy finished the season in scintillating form. He was unplayable," Gerrard said.
"It was fantastic to see as a Liverpool player. I'm hoping he can continue that form for England. If he does it's going to be a big bonus," Gerrard went on. "Defences will find it very difficult to play against Andy Carroll on that form."
Hodgson's options for the first match of his reign have been limited by the fact that the Chelsea contingent of players have been given an extra rest period along with Rooney. The absentees mean the England manager's first line-up has been forced by circumstance to an extent, with West Ham goalkeeper Rob Green another player due to get a run out.
"A lot of positions are taken care of as we're still waiting for the Chelsea players and of course Wayne Rooney," Hodgson said. "I know what I am going to do, but I haven't told the players yet. The back four takes care of itself, Rob Green will be in goal and Steven (Gerrard) will start as captain."
Green's appearance will be his first for England since his blunder against USA at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ which helped the Americans take a 1-1 draw. Hodgson is keen to give Green match time following the cruel injury to Norwich keeper John Ruddy, who was ruled out of the EUROs on Friday after suffering a broken finger.
Hodgson extended sympathy to Ruddy, who had been one of his surprise selections when the England squad was announced earlier this month. "He was so excited to be with the national team and to go to the Euros, but to break a finger, in goalkeeping work too, was really unfortunate. "We can't take a risk. The finger will heal before the start of the season but the medical advice was for him to stop at home."
Meanwhile Hodgson said Scott Parker's Achilles problem had cleared up and he was expected to play, but Glen Johnson was still struggling with a toe infection. Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck's ankle injury has failed to heal as quickly as expected but Hodgson said he believed the youngster would still recover in time for the tournament.
"Danny Welbeck's injury has cleared up less quickly than we'd hoped, but medical expertise tells me he'll be okay," he said.