Roy Hodgson: I won’t see England’s youngsters at their best

• Raheem Sterling and Calum Chambers making senior mark
• ‘Players don’t reach their best until they’re 27 or 28’
Euro 2016 qualifier match report: England 5-0 San Marino

Roy Hodgson has admitted his successor as England manager may be the chief beneficiary of the crop of young players already making their mark in the senior team as the national set-up makes plans beyond the 2016 European Championships.

The squad travel to Estonia on Saturday before their latest qualifying game having established themselves at the top of Group E and with a number of bright young things seizing their opportunity to establish credentials at the higher level. The team will be tested sternly in prestigious friendly fixtures over the next two years, with Italy confirmed as opponents next March, likely to be played in Turin, and negotiations close to conclusion to play France at the Stade de France, either in November 2015 or the March before the tournament.

Those games, together with matches against Scotland next month and the Republic of Ireland in the summer, will most likely offer a truer indication of this team’s development than what appears to be a relatively straightforward qualification campaign, with the emphasis having been thrust firmly on to the long term. The average age of the 14 who featured against San Marino on Thursday was 24 years 234 days, a figure inflated by the inclusion of Phil Jagielka, at 32. Only Gary Cahill and Wayne Rooney of the rest were over 28, with two teenagers selected in Raheem Sterling and Calum Chambers.

Asked if his successor might actually benefit from working with these players at their peak, Hodgson said: “I suppose looking forward, [the majority in] this team are mostly 21 or 22. People will tell me players don’t reach their best until they are 27 or 28 so realistically, perhaps I won’t see their best. I am enjoying enormously working with them even though there is experience to gain. I am enjoying the moment where they gain that experience and they are providing a lot of things which give us a lot of satisfaction.”

The assistant coach, Gary Neville, had offered an insight into the set-up’s forward planning last month by confirming Hodgson had hoped to “marry the older group [of players] with the future” once the team had qualified for last summer’s World Cup. The likes of Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck, Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere were selected for Brazil because “there needed to be a bedding-in of the younger players in a tournament.” Neville added: “There is no turning back now.” The progress made by Gareth Southgate’s Under-21s, and even Aidy Boothroyd’s Under-20s who defeated Germany in Heerenveen on Thursday, suggests that strategy is sound.

The manager retains an element of pragmatism to his approach, acutely aware that results must not dip while he maintains the squad’s evolution. “I don’t want to get caught up feeling embarrassed if I pick someone who is 28, 29, 30, because you are telling me I should only be picking under-30s,” said Hodgson, who used Chelsea’s Lewis Baker, who is in the Under-21 squad, in training with the senior players at St George’s Park this week.

“I am picking people I think can do the job. A good example of that is Chambers. Here is a guy who played a few times for the Under-19s, jumped straight over the Under-21s and went into the first team. That is a great pat on the back for our development system.

“The reason it is there is to get [players] into the first-team. You are an Under-21 player because you want to be a senior. No one has a goal to play for the Under-21s. The goal is the senior team. And if you get in the Under-20s and Under-21s and that gets you into the senior team, then you give the development a pat on the back. But I don’t want to say if any vacancies appear in the squad then I ‘have’ to go into the Under-21 squad. I will, if there is a Calum Chambers there. I will if there is a John Stones. But we will see.

“It is something we talk about, particularly with the attacking talent. It is strange how it has manifested itself. A year ago we didn’t know Sterling would turn out the player he is today. We did not know, in the early days of Jordan Henderson at Liverpool, that he would become the player he is. We didn’t know [Ross] Barkley would kick on. We didn’t know how well Welbeck would do when he got his chance, or Sturridge, so I have been lucky enough to be here when that has all happened and, I suppose, bright enough to realise I don’t have to hang my hat on 30-year-olds. If these guys are that good, I can put them in the team.”

Negotiations are ongoing with the French Football Federation over the date of the fixture at the Stade de France, with Les Bleus’ coach, Didier Deschamps, seeking to play the likes of England, Germany, Italy and Holland in Paris before the finals in 2016. The French hope to announce the final scheduling of the fixture next week.