London: England manager Roy Hodgson has bemoaned the lack of English players at the country`s leading clubs after a bleak fortnight for Premier League teams in the Champions League.
With Arsenal and Manchester City having followed Liverpool and Chelsea in crashing out of the Champions League this week, England has no teams in the quarter-finals for the second time in three years.
It has prompted fears of a lasting decline in England`s continental standing, but for Hodgson, the diminishing number of English players playing for the country`s top sides is a source of equal concern.
"When we talk about England and English teams in the Champions League, we`re not talking about very many English players, if we`re being perfectly honest," he said.
"We`re talking (Manchester City`s James) Milner, we`re talking (Chelsea`s Gary) Cahill, we might be talking (Arsenal`s Danny) Welbeck, although he didn`t play in the first game against Monaco.
"Sometimes people ask me the question as if eight, nine, 10 English players (are playing for each English team). They`re not. We`re talking three, four or five English players involved at most and what`s more, they`re all shoe-ins for us anyway."
The declining number of England-eligible players in the Premier League was one of the issues that prompted Football Association chairman Greg Dyke to launch his England Commission last year, tasked with assessing the future of the sport.
Hodgson added: "At Champions League level, much as I enjoy watching the games, I`m not really watching that many players.
"When I watch Chelsea play or Man City play against Barcelona, I`m only watching two or three players from my selfish point of view. `How`s James (Milner) doing?` `Is Joe (Hart) in good form?`
"Well he`d better be, because we haven`t got many goalkeepers. Of 20 teams in the Premier League, there`s only five Englishmen. Fifteen of the goalkeepers in the Premier League are foreigners, I think."One of the few English players guaranteed a starting berth at a major Premier League team is captain Wayne Rooney, who will lead Manchester United into battle against Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.
Rooney, 29, is three goals shy of Bobby Charlton`s national goal-scoring record of 49, ahead of games against Lithuania and Italy later this month, but Hodgson believes he has already proven himself an England great.
"Fifty goals today is in my opinion harder than 50 goals in the 1950s, 60s and 70s," the former Liverpool manager told journalists during a briefing at Wembley.
"When I was at Liverpool, I was constantly surrounded by people who were described by Liverpool TV as legends, some of whom I can barely remember.
"So I think the word `legend` is a dangerous one. You don`t have to do too much these days. I would think he is already a legend."
Hodgson also lauded stand-in Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, who has excelled in the absence of the injured Steven Gerrard in recent weeks, scoring three goals in his last three league games.
"His rise has been quite meteoric, really," Hodgson said.
"Although he has been around a long time, it`s only in the last year or so that people have started to say, `Actually this boy is a good player. This lad has got a lot of qualities.`
"I don`t think he needs to be hung up on goal-scoring, because I think he has always been around the national team for the many other qualities he has.
"If he starts adding goals as well, then you are talking about someone who is exceptional."