Defoe, Shaw, Forster in England squad named for Denmark friendly

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Roy Hodgson has released a list of 30 men who will be with England for its March 5 friendly against Denmark, and there are plenty of discussion points for Three Lions enthusiasts.

Included in the list are five Manchester United players, tops among all Premier League clubs, including Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and, of course, Wayne Rooney.

Also notable is the inclusion of presumed-injured and newly-minted Toronto FC striker Jermain Defoe. A hamstring ailment is going to keep him out of his Tottenham goodbye match today. With his TFC season debut in question, the bigger query is whether Defoe will risk it for this chance to stake his claim in England’s plans for the World Cup.

Eighteen-year-old defender Luke Shaw of Southampton continues his meteoric rise into English prominence with a call-up, and is joined by teammates Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez.

Aside from Defoe, the only English call-up not plying his trade in the Premier League is Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster. He was with Newcastle through the rise of Tim Krul and has been a major factor for the Hoops. It’ll be interesting to see whether he gets a true chance to prove himself for England, as he just had a run of 1256 clean minutes end for club and earned his first cap in November against Chile.

Phil Jagielka is out of the friendly with an injury, while Nicklas Bendtner will be a part of the opposition roster.

Fraser Forster (Celtic)
Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion)
Joe Hart (Manchester City)
John Ruddy (Norwich City)

Leighton Baines (Everton)
Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Steven Caulker (Cardiff City)
Ashley Cole (Chelsea)
Glen Johnson (Liverpool)
Luke Shaw (Southampton)
Chris Smalling (Manchester United)
Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur)

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)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal)
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)
Andros Townsend (Tottenham Hotspur)
Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)

Jermain Defoe (Toronto FC)
Rickie Lambert (Southampton)
Jay Rodriguez (Southampton)
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Daniel Welbeck (Manchester United)

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.