England boss Steve McClaren has confirmed Jonathan Woodgate will start for his country in tomorrow’s friendly against Spain at Old Trafford – and revealed the defender is a player he has “always admired”.
The Real Madrid player, lent to Middlesbrough for the season, comes into the starting line-up along with on-loan Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster- who will make his senior debut at the home of his parent club Manchester United.
Also back is Newcastle midfielder Kieron Dyer, following a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a succession of injuries.
McClaren told Sky Sports: “I have always admired Jonathan. Since he has been back in the Premiership, he has been a revelation. He has kept away from injuries and he’s a good player.
“He is dying to play for England again, and we look forward to it.”
Asked about the decision to call up Foster, McClaren added: “Nobody has got the experience that Paul Robinson has got – we need to give these goalkeepers a chance. Chris Kirkwood is injured, so this gives Ben the perfect opportunity.
“Kieron is another one I have always admired – his performances for Newcastle have been full of maturity, and I’m looking forward to seeing that maturity tomorrow.”
Shaun Wright-Phillips, who suffered racist abuse when the sides met in a friendly in Madrid in November 2004, has returned to the starting line-up – with Aaron Lennon unavailable because of a stomach bug.
However, McClaren is keen to play down the significance of the Chelsea wide man’s return to the team.
“It’s a big night for everybody – for Foster, Woodgate, Dyer – for everybody. I understand that [Wright-Phillips’ previous experience against Spain]. But a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, and a lot of good has been done in the fight against racism.”
McClaren sees the Spain match as “the beginning of a big year” and added: “I hope we will finish it with qualification.
“Is it make or break? I don’t see it as that. We need to qualify for the Euros next year, so there is no added pressure on me or on anybody.
“The only pressure is to win football matches and to achieve our target - which is qualification. I’m not even going to think about (not qualifying).”