McClaren: Aaron's our Ronaldo
By Tom Adams
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Steve McClaren has hailed Aaron Lennon as England's very own Cristiano Ronaldo.
Steve McClaren has hailed Aaron Lennon as England's very own Cristiano Ronaldo, as he prepares to field the Tottenham winger in Saturday's game against Israel.
Lennon is expected to deputise for Joe Cole on the left side of England's midfield when they travel to Tel Aviv for a crucial Euro 2008 qualifier.
Stewart Downing and Kieron Dyer are also in McClaren's squad, but the England boss believes Lennon's pace and ability mark him out as a player in the same class as Manchester United star Ronaldo.
The Spurs youngster is normally deployed on the right wing at club level, but McClaren will have no hesitation in asking Lennon to perform on the left as England look to rejuvenate their flagging qualifying campaign.
"He's been unfortunate with injuries and illness this season but you can see in big games when the pressure and the spotlight's on him that he still wants the ball, still performs, still excites and wants to create something," said McClaren.
"The boy's got fantastic potential and he's also one who is flexible. He can play right, left or central and he's got the intelligence to do all three roles really well.
"More than that he's got the character and determination to play for England and be a very, very good player.
"He gives us the balance we need. I've seen him on the left and he still goes outside the full-back rather than always cutting inside onto his right.
"We haven't had his kind of pace or that kind of player for a long time - the Cristiano Ronaldo type who can take the ball the length of the pitch."
Everton striker Andy Johnson will also be offered the chance to impress as he is expected to make his first competitive start for England after missing out on the World Cup finals.
The Goodison star has scored 11 goals this season and McClaren believes his predatory instincts are a rare quality.
"I am not going to go over what has happened in the past with Andy Johnson, but we are looking for someone to play alongside [Wayne] Rooney and he could be the answer," McClaren added.
"Next to Michael Owen, Andy is the most natural goalscorer we have got - his record proves that.
"I certainly think he is capable of handling the game in Israel."