BY SAM SMITH
Roy Hodgson hopes Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be patient in his quest for a senior England cap and not elect to represent DR Congo.
It has been reported that the Crystal Palace academy graduate, who now plays for tomorrow’s opponents Manchester United, has considered switching allegiance to the African nation. Wan-Bissaka played for DR Congo at U20 level and qualifies for them through a family relation.
The Croydon-born defender has played for England at U20 and U21 level and earned a senior call-up in 2019 but was forced to withdraw through injury. He faces tough competition for the right-back spot in Gareth Southgate’s side – with the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Tripper all fighting for that position.
Former England boss Hodgson, who handed Wan-Bissaka a senior debut at Palace in 2018, believes he should wait for an opportunity to play for the Three Lions. Asked if it would be a shame if the 23-year-old switched allegiance, Hodgson said: “I totally agree with that. During my team with England, there were players who I faced a lot of questions about and: ‘Why aren’t you doing more to get him to play for England’, and: ‘what a scandal that this guy might escape’.
“I’m thinking in particular about [former Man United winger Adnan] Januzaj, for example. There was an enormous furore [around him]. But there’s a player who basically hasn’t reached the level where he’d be knocking on England’s door.
“Jack Grealish was the opposite situation at the time. It was touch and go whether he would agree to go to Ireland or take a chance with England. That was quite a bold step he took because at the time [then-Ireland boss] Martin O’Neill was virtually saying to him: ‘You come to us, you’re in the first team’. All we were saying was: ‘If you sign up with us, there’s no place for you at the moment, but we do believe in you’.
“Luckily, he took the England step. I think that could be the situation with Aaron. I would like to see him hold on. I would like to see him wait a bit longer. At the moment there’s big competition at right-back and he might not get into the team.
“Wilf [Zaha] was another good example. It’s always disappointing for me to see how England did miss out on using Wilf Zaha. I’m hoping Aaron will be patient and not dive straight in to play for an African nation. Like a lot of players, there’s a background with Democratic Republic of Congo but it’s not a country he’s actually lived in.
“England is the country he’s lived in, grown up in and played all his football in so it would be nice if he can dedicate his skills to England. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. At the same time I’m not trying to put pressure on him or Gareth Southgate in any way whatsoever. It will be what it will be.”
Wan-Bissaka made 46 Palace appearances under Hodgson after making his debut against Tottenham in January 2018.
He has played 86 times for the Red Devils following his £50 million move in June 2019. Hodgson has been impressed by his development. The 2018/19 Palace Player of the Year has added to the attacking side of his game – scoring his first two senior goals for the Red Devils this season.
He continued: “He’s developing extremely well. There’s no doubt he’s improving. His ability on the ball has definitely improved. He’s getting forward a lot more than perhaps he was able to with us because he didn’t have the same players around him here that he now has at Man United.
“His defending is still as good as ever. He’s one of the best one-v-one defenders in the league, that’s well documented. I certainly don’t see any diminishing of his powers in that respect.
“When he moved to Man United, one of the biggest clubs in the world, it was important for him to take on that responsibility and to make certain he could learn from the coaching staff, manager and players around him. It seems to me that’s what he has done.
“I haven’t had a lot of chance to speak to him. They’ve only been short conversations around the games. But watching him play, that seems pretty clear to me that that’s what’s happening.”
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