Lions call will boost Jay Rodriguez

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NOW a teammate with club and country, Jack Cork feels Jay Rodriguez did himself no harm on his England Under 21 debut.

Rodriguez, 21, came on as a substitute for the last half hour against Italy in the Stadio Carlo Castellani in Empoli on Tuesday.

Jay Rodriguez

Jay Rodriguez

Cork was an earlier replacement for Everton’s Jack Rodwell after only 11 miniutes, going on to put on a standout performance at centre back, keeping Federico Macheda quiet, before his late penalty settled the match.

The on-loan Chelsea midfielder was disappointed to lose the game at the death, having played so well, but he took heart from his, and Rodriguez’s performances.

Cork hopes the boost of Rodriguez’s first cap will only benefit the six-goal frontman ahead of tomorrow’s game at play-off rivals Watford.

He said: “I thought Joe Bennett was really good, and some other players like Josh (McEachran) and Jay (Rodriguez) when he came on played really well.

Jay Rodriguez

Jay Rodriguez

“I’m really pleased for Jay.

“I’m glad he got on and did well, so hopefully when we go back to Burnley he’ll be buzzing.”

Clarets fans are unaccustomed to seeing Cork play at centre back, almost as a sweeper, but he was arguably the best player on the pitch, and he said: “We played some really good stuff at times, but it’s disappointing at the end especially for Ben (Mee), we did quite well together at the back.

“We kept their forwards quiet and he did exceptionally well.

“Me and Ben thought we had the better of their front two all game.

“For him (Macheda) to score a penalty at the end was disappointing.

“We’ll take some positives from the game, we did play some good stuff and hopefully we can move on.”

Cork wasn’t expecting to be called into action so soon in the game, and it was a bigger test considering travel troubles had meant England were unable to train in advance: “I was sat on the bench just chilling, and then Rodders (Jack Rodwell) was going for his groin and I thought he’d be alright, and then I was told to warm up and went on.

“I quite like playing there, it’s harder when you come up against bigger opponents, but they weren’t too big and weren’t too physical so it suits me better.

“It’s different playing centre-half instead of midfield, but I feel good. I felt like we did quite well as a team.

“Monday was a bit of a nightmare, we weren’t allowed off the plane and had to land at the wrong airport.

“It took us three hours to get to the hotel and it felt like a long journey.

“Considering we didn’t train, everyone got on really well and we bonded well as a team.

“Whenever I come away with England it’s always quite easy to get along with all the lads, they are a genuine set of lads and this group was no different.”

And he has his eyes on the summer European Championship Finals in Denmark, when England will be among the favourites - with the likes of Andy Carroll, Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs still eligible: “We’ve lost two games, but we haven’t played our full-strength team.

“We’ve been playing a lot of different players who had a chance to try and impress the manager.

“I think a lot of players have done that, and when everyone is back it’s going to be hard for the manager to pick a 23-man squad.”

Rodriguez certainly did his hopes of a second call-up no harm at all.

Father Kiko’s advice was to “play my normal game”.

And he did just that as he adapted seamlessly to international level.

Displaying the traits that have made him a first team regular at Turf Moor, the former Barden High School pupil could be very proud of his contribution for Stuart Pearce’s young Lions.

His introduction helped England firmly gain the initiative against Ciro Ferrara’s side.

Rodriguez’s first touch was a neat chest trap and lay off to the right for Aston Villa’s Marc Albrighton - a confidence-boosting touch.

And within moments he produced another deft flick that caught out the Italian defence - resulting in a bodycheck that went unpunished that former Juventus hardman Ferrara would have been proud of.

Aerially Rodriguez dominated, winning flick ons time and again, and he was prepared to run the channels as well, closing down and, at one stage, making a typical burst down the left flank.

A good one-two with Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba was his next contribution, before he was inches away from getting to the loose ball after Sinclair’s shot was saved.

England may have lost the game in the last couple of minutes after Manchester City’s Ben Mee, on loan at Leicester gave away a penalty and was sent off, but they were the better side, particularly in the second half.

Cork and Rodriguez will hope to be on duty for England Under 21s’ next home game against Iceland on Monday, March 28th at Preston North End.

Tickets are priced at £10 for adults and £5 for children, and are available from the ticket office at Deepdale, in person, over the phone on 0844 856 1966 and online at www.mypne.com.