By Matt Lawton
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has leapt to the forefront of Roy Hodgson’s planning for Euro 2012 after being handed his first start for England at Wembley.
The 18-year-old Arsenal winger was told on Friday night at a team meeting that he will line up against Belgium after his 17-minute cameo last Saturday in the win over Norway.
England manager Hodgson has been at pains to insist that he is not using the game as a dress rehearsal for the opening match against France, but it still suggests that the teenager is in line for a dramatic entrance to tournament football.
Hodgson will also give Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck only his second full international start just ahead of Ashley Young up front.
The manager’s show of faith in youth has echoes of Michael Owen’s emergence before the 1998 World Cup or Wayne Rooney’s impact on Euro 2004 when both were also aged 18.
Hodgson was coy about his wingers at Friday’s press conference but Sportsmail can reveal he will go with James Milner on the right flank with Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left, a role the Arsenal youngster filled in training on Friday.
There will also be recalls for Joe Hart, Glen Johnson and the Chelsea trio John Terry, Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill.
The new boss will send out his players with the message to add a little sparkle to the weekend’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations with a rousing Wembley send-off.
He said: ‘Last week was a good first game but it won’t compare to 90,000 people at Wembley on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. We join the whole nation in congratulating the Queen. I am pretty certain the nation will agree with me that, however important football is, the Diamond Jubilee takes precedence.
‘I want the players to show how enthusiastic they are about this tournament and how determined they are to work their socks off and get the best results possible; that their attitude towards this tournament is going to be, “No fair-minded person will be able to say we didn’t give our best, we didn’t work hard enough or want it badly enough”.
‘If they can give a performance tomorrow that in some way shows that, that will make me happy. Managing at Wembley is fantastic.’
Hodgson will also pray for no more injuries. He has already lost Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and John Ruddy from his initial 23-man squad and there are lingering concerns about Scott Parker, who struggled through the end of the season with an achilles problem.
‘I ask him every day how he is,’ said Hodgson. ‘He says he’s fine, perfectly OK. He’s going to get fed up with me asking. He’s been training non-stop but he didn’t play in Tottenham’s last three matches. Is he as match-fit as the guys who did?’
Parker will start against Belgium, alongside Steven Gerrard in central midfield, where options have been limited by the loss of Barry and Lampard.
‘You have to be philosophical,’ said Hodgson. ‘It’s very unfortunate but we’re not alone. The French are a classic example, losing Bacary Sagna and they might have lost Yann M’Vila this week. It’s going to happen, quite frankly. We are at the end of a long season, particularly in England where we don’t have the winter break, so there’s always going to be that risk.’
The usual pomp and ceremony of a Wembley international will be enhanced by a Jubilee flag which will lead out the teams, and a presentation for England’s quintet of centurions. Special caps will be formally presented before the game to Peter Shilton, David Beckham and Sir Bobby Charlton, and to relatives of Bobby Moore and Billy Wright.