ADAM Lallana is relishing the fray again and the chance to show Roy Hodgson he should start for England. The 26-year-old hopes for a 10th cap when San Marino come to Wembley on Thursday in the first of two Euro 2016 qualifiers, after recovering from a knee injury that ruined pre-season with Liverpool. Yet Lallanaâ€™s trying summer began earlier than the ligament damage suffered on tour in Boston in late July after only four days with his new club.
The Â£25m move from Southampton was preceded by the forward being dropped from the starting XI by Hodgson as England began their Brazil 2014 campaign. Lallana started two of the three pre-World Cup friendlies but Hodgson decided to pick Raheem Sterling in the opening group match against Italy, which caused Lallana understandable frustration.
â€œOf course, as a footballer, you want to play every game possible. But the manager has big decisions to make. He has a squad and 11 places to choose for. I have huge respect for the manager and every decision he makes,â€ says the former Southampton captain, who admits a lot is at stake personally against San Marino and in Sundayâ€™s match in Estonia.
â€œItâ€™s always good, even in training, to show the manager what you can do and remind him, so if I get my chance Iâ€™ll be looking to take it and impress him,â€ he says. â€œThereâ€™s always going to be competition at this level. The amount of English players we have playing in the Premier League â€“ thereâ€™s no shortage really, so thereâ€™ll be people pushing you for your places.â€
Hodgson showed he values Lallana by involving him in all three matches in Brazil, though he started only the final match in the disastrous group stage that was over before the last outing, which was against Costa Rica. Yet after being in 12 England squads the challenge is to make himself an automatic choice.
â€œI still feel I have a lot to learn and prove,â€ says Lallana. â€œI donâ€™t think by any stretch Iâ€™m an established international. I have hard work to do to get to this level consistently.â€
San Marino may park the car, bus and aeroplane on the Wembley turf by putting 10 men in front of England at all times. If selected, Lallanaâ€™s willingness to try to break lines would be an asset. â€œWeâ€™re lucky with the squad we have, lots of options, players who are good at breaking down teams,â€ he says. â€œItâ€™ll be a different kind of test for us to win. We have to make sure we are patient and break them down.â€
Lallanaâ€™s injury means only recently has he felt back to his best form, after making his Liverpool debut on 13 September in the 1-0 loss at Aston Villa. Having scored a first goal in Saturdayâ€™s 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion, he says: â€œIt was a tough start for me, because I wasnâ€™t fit for pre-season or the first few games. Itâ€™s great to be back involved. As a professional you always want to be fit for pre-season. Thatâ€™s where you get the mileage in, get rid of the so-called cobwebs. Now I feel fully fit and getting back to my best football.â€
On departing Southampton Lallana took out a local newspaper advert to thank supporters for â€œ14 unforgettable yearsâ€. As is footballâ€™s way, some fans remain aggrieved that he left to better himself and Lallana disputes ever refusing to turn out again for the Saints should the deal to Liverpool not happen. â€œThatâ€™s completely false. I didnâ€™t say Iâ€™d never play for the club again,â€ he says.
â€œOnce I knew Liverpoolâ€™s interest, I asked the club if they could come to an agreement and that it would be my wish to leave and join Liverpool. Iâ€™ll make no secret of that. Iâ€™m an ambitious person. At the age I was in my career, and with Mauricio [Pochettino] leaving as well, it just felt the right time for me to test myself. It was a great opportunity. Iâ€™m sad and disappointed that certain fans feel like that, but I understand why.
â€œThey love Southampton. Iâ€™ll always love Southampton. I had a great time down there. I have great respect for Southampton as a club. Without them, I wouldnâ€™t be where I am today. They gave me my chance when I was young. What we achieved was special: we were in League One and ended up finishing last season with our best number of league points.â€ – The Guardian