England v Lithuania: hopes high for fifth qualifier win
All eyes will be on Harry Kane this evening, as England look to firm up their place at Euro 2016
England host Lithuania tonight at Wembley in a Group E qualifier that should take the Three Lions a step closer to qualification for next year's European Championship.
Already six points clear of the rest of the group, England will make it five wins from five with victory over the eastern Europeans and all but guarantee their passage to France in 2016.
As for what happens after next summer, England captain Wayne Rooney used Thursday's pre-match press conference to endorse Roy Hodgson and suggest the Football Association should extend his contract when it expires in 15 months.
"Since I've worked with Roy, he's been fantastic for me and the team," Rooney told reporters. "Hopefully they'll sit down and sort it out and we'll have a few more years with him."
FA chairman Greg Dyke has made clear that it will be "nine months to a year" before he and Hodgson sit down to discuss his future, a timescale that suits the England manager. "I'm perfectly happy," said Hodgson. "What I've said all along when asked about my future is exactly what Greg's said, so it seems we're singing from the same hymn sheet on that."
Hodgson also reminded reporters that talk of next year's championships is premature. "It's all very well to talk about what England will do in France, but at the moment, we're not there," he said. "We've got six qualifiers to play and six matches still to win – that's a big enough challenge."
One player who looks like getting his chance to tackle the challenge of qualification is Tottenham striker Harry Kane. The 21-year-old is in the squad for tonight's game – and next Tuesday's friendly in Italy – and Hodgson confirmed he's sure to win his first cap at some point. "We're very happy with Harry," the England manager declared. "I'm pretty sure over the course of these two games we'll see him make his debut, but I'm not prepared to give my selection away and when that is, people will have to wait and see."
Rooney added his voice to those acclaiming the young Spurs' sharpshooter, describing his tally of 29 goals this season as "incredible". He added: "We've seen over the last few days [in training] that he's a goalscorer. If he has a chance, he'll finish. It's great for English football to have someone scoring goals the way he is."
But Rooney cautioned against investing too much expectation in the young man. "So, although he has done really well, we have to give him room to breathe rather than smothering him and demanding a lot at an early age," he said, no doubt mindful of the excitement generated in recent seasons by Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley "Let him continue to do what he is doing and that will be the best way to get the best out of him."
The England captain was also asked about his impromptu boxing bout that hit the headlines earlier in the month. "For me, it wasn't a big issue," he said of the footage that saw him felled by a punch from Phil Bardsley. "I was in a house with some friends. Obviously I was caught on the wrong end of a punch, but I wasn't knocked out like it was reported."