Age gap landmark for England

Everton midfielder Leon Osman will make his England debut at the age of 31

Everton midfielder Leon Osman will make his England debut at the age of 31

First published in National Sport News © by

It is not quite pensioners and schoolboys, but Roy Hodgson will be creating some kind of landmark when he tosses Leon Osman and Raheem Sterling into the England fray in Stockholm.

Osman, at 31 years and 181 days and Sterling, at just 17 years and 342 will create the biggest age gap between Three Lions debutants since World War II. With Tottenham's Steven Caulker included as well suddenly a late autumn trip to Sweden is not quite the pointless exercise some Barclays Premier League managers would have us believe.

"Steven Caulker and Raheem have been playing regularly for the Under-21s and have made that transition," said Hodgson.

"Leon Osman is the odd one out. He has been performing regularly and well for Everton but has been passed over. I thought it was time to give him a chance because he has been one of the unsung heroes of a very good football club and a very good football team.

"He is a very energetic player. And the fact he is 31 surprises me because he plays like a much younger man. Let's hope that continues and I won't have to worry about his birth certificate."

Sterling will become England's fifth youngest international. Since the start of the 20th century, only Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney earned senior England honours at a younger age, and only Rooney as a starter, which the 17-year-old will do at the newly constructed Friends Arena.

It is a measure of the startling progress Sterling has made that as recently as February 2011, he was scoring five goals for Liverpool's youth team in a 9-0 win over Southend. In a difficult first season on Merseyside from Brendan Rodgers, Sterling has provided a dazzling ray of light.

"In some of the Liverpool games I have seen, he has pretty much been the star player," said Hodgson. "He is extremely dangerous with his ability to run with the ball, his pace and directness. He has even scored one or two important goals. If he can do it on a regular basis for Liverpool in the Premier League I have every right to think he can do it playing for England as well."

Hodgson has taken the rare step of unveiling his team to the media in advance of kick-off. So we know there will be three Liverpool players starting - Sterling, Glen Johnson and centurion Steven Gerrard - plus three from Manchester United - Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young.

Team: Hart (Manchester City), Johnson (Liverpool), Cahill (Chelsea), Caulker (Tottenham), Baines (Everton), Gerrard (Liverpool), Cleverley (Manchester United), Osman (Everton), Sterling (Liverpool), Welbeck (Manchester United), Young (Manchester United).

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