Hodgson: Cleverley is our Cesc

Hodgson and Cleverley
England coach Roy Hodgson has singled out Tom Cleverley for special praise. Photo: PA

Roy Hodgson believes Tom Cleverley can do the same job for England that Cesc Fabregas carries out for world and European champions Spain.

Fabregas was a key figure in Spain's strikerless march to glory at Euro 2012 this summer.

The former Arsenal man was Vicente del Bosque's major attacking force at times, while also lending a hand further back when the need occasionally arose.

Although there were a few teething troubles, Fabregas eventually excelled in the 'false nine' role as Spain took Italy apart in the final.

Hodgson is not quite proposing to go that far.

In Moldova for instance, he had an orthodox forward leading the line in Jermain Defoe, a scorer in England's 5-0 win, before he was replaced by Danny Welbeck.

It is hardly likely Hodgson will start to ignore Wayne Rooney when the Manchester United man recovers from his gashed thigh.

However, in the support role, Cleverley offers something different.

And Hodgson clearly feels it is a job that has a future for the 23-year-old.

"I suppose you could say Tom Cleverley is an attacking midfield player - but he's an attacking midfield player in the same way Cesc Fabregas is," said Hodgson.

"He plays in that position for Manchester United.

"He is quite capable of coming back into a central midfield role and winning the ball when necessary.

"Also, he took a bit more responsibility for getting closer to Jermain Defoe and allowing Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard to get on the ball in deeper positions where they are comfortable."

Cleverley also offers proof that while football was an uneasy fit at the London 2012 Olympics, certainly from a British men's perspective, for some it was a genuinely worthwhile exercise.

Sidelined by injury for much of last season, Cleverley's hopes of making Euro 2012 had already been dashed before Hodgson was appointed as Fabio Capello's successor.

Without the opportunity to watch Cleverley on a couple of occasions, Hodgson might not have been tempted to select him for last month's friendly with Italy in Switzerland, which prompted the call-up for England's opening World Cup games.

"It was important for me because that's where I sort of discovered him," said Hodgson.

"I knew him when he was at Watford and I'd seen him play a couple of times, and I'd seen him play a few games as substitute for Manchester United.

"But he got injured very early last season, so the Olympics was the opportunity for me to cast the rule over him."

Cleverley was not the only youngster to impress as England assumed early command of Group H on the road to Brazil 2014.

Hodgson may have made a pointed reference to two-goal hero Frank Lampard and skipper Steven Gerrard when he said the old guard are making it hard to leave them out but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is starting to establish a little niche for himself too.

At just 19, the Arsenal wide man still has much to learn.

But the potential is there, and his impressively mature attitude suggests he will fulfil it as long as he keeps absorbing some key points.

"Alex was very good in the first half but we made it clear we were going to take him off after 60 minutes, so I think he forgot to play in the second," said Hodgson.

"That will be an interesting lesson for him as well. Especially when I tell him."

As Oxlade-Chamberlain reported earlier in the week receiving a major rebuke from the England coach for showboating in training, Hodgson is clearly not going to give the teenager an easy ride.

However, it is part of ensuring he gets the most from players he is demanding more from to widen his selection base.

"With so many key members of our squad - Ashley Cole, Gareth Barry, Wayne Rooney, not to mention (Ashley) Young, (Chris) Smalling and (Andy) Carroll, absent, it was important that everyone stepped up to the plate.

"The senior players are still playing with the same aplomb they did during the Euros but it's nice to see we've got a few new faces coming onto the scene and challenging for places."