Jimmy Armfield on England, Hodgson, Rashford, winning and 1966

Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford
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Jimmy Armfield has backed England to do well in Euro 2016 and supports Roy Hodgson’s decision to name Marcus Rashford in his squad.

Much has been made of the Manchester United striker’s inclusion with only 11 senior games under his belt.

But Blackpool great Armfield, who played 43 times for England, insists there is no reason the teenager can’t make a real impact.

He told The Gazette: “In 1958 I remember Brazil throwing in an 17-year-old striker no-one had ever heard of ... his name was Pele. He didn’t do too badly for himself, did he?

“Sometimes it’s good for a young lads with no fear to go into tournaments and make a name for themselves.

“Alan Ball in 1966 was only 19 – he ended up being the best player on the pitch in the World Cup Final, so there’s no reason Rashford can’t make a real impact for England.”

Amfield, who captained England and played in three major international tournaments, was a member of that glorious 1966 squad with Blackpool team-mate Ball, and he is as optimistic as ever about England’s chances over the coming weeks.

“I think we can win it ... but I’ve been saying that going into every tournament since 1996,” he said. “I always back England to do well and we almost did in 1990, when I think we had our best squad since winning the World Cup.

“I was involved in 1996 with Terry Venables and that was a good time.

“The Euros aren’t quite as big as the World Cup but it would be massive if England could go and win it.

“You have to say England have as good a chance as anyone at this stage.

“They go into the tournament in almost perfect form – the qualifying campaign was excellent and I also think the climate will help. It’s not far away from home, so there are no excuses really for England’s players.

“I’d like to think the players are going into the tournament full of confidence.”

England kick-off their campaign tomorrow night against Russia after winning all 10 qualifying games.

It means added pressure for Hodgson’s men, who go into the tournament fourth-favourites with the bookies behind France, Germany and Spain.

Armfield added: “It’s all about how you manage the tournament. You have to be strong as a group inside the camp. In 1966 we had a really strong group and it really showed.

“Roy Hodgson isn’t blessed with what I’d call top players but there are plenty of good ones.

“You need a bit of a break, that little bit of luck along the way. Roy is the best man for the job at the moment.

His experience will be so important. He’s been a manager for a very long time and has coached all over Europe.

“That will really help England’s players this summer.”

England’s squad could be away from home for five weeks but Armfield says such a period away wouldn’t have bothered the players of his generation.

“In 1962 we were at the other side of the world in Chile.

“Most of the squad had experienced being away on two years’ national service, so being away with England for five weeks was easy.

“It was luxury after being in the army. I remember being based in a mining camp in Chile, in a town called Rancagua. It was 8,000 feet above sea level.

“That made it tough for us as the conditions were so different to what we were used to back home.

“I don’t think that’s an issue for this squad in France, so that should help a lot.

“I played in two World Cups for England and a European Championships, though the Euros was a straight knockout competition back then.

“The one in 1964 was Alf Ramsey’s first tournament as England boss and we went out in the preliminary round.

“It was held in winter then and we drew the first leg against France 1-1 in the snow before losing 5-2 away. That was it – we were out.”

Inquests into England’s failure to repeat their success of 1966 have continued throughout the 50 years since but Armfield thinks the main reason is clear.

“A big issue is that Roy doesn’t have as many players to choose from playing in the Premier League,” he said.

“I commentated on games last season for Radio Five Live and in each one there was maybe three English players on the pitch.

“That’s an issue which needs sorting for the good of our international game.”