Townsend takes long and winding road to England cap

By Mike Collett

LONDON (Reuters) - Debutant Andros Townsend, who inspired England to an emphatic 4-1 World Cup qualifying win over Montenegro at Wembley on Friday, is only 22 but the fans of 10 clubs have already seen first hand the talent that led to his first cap.

The 22-year-old Tottenham Hotspur winger made one of the most stunning debuts for England for years as he scored one and had a hand in another before being named as man of the match on a night when England took a big step towards next year's World Cup finals in Brazil.

But while basking in the spotlight and with words of praise from manager Roy Hodgson ringing in his ears, Townsend has had a tougher journey than most to earn his England place.

Joining the Spurs academy as a nine year old in 2000, he has been loaned out to nine clubs during the last four years: Yeovil Town, Leyton Orient, MK Dons, Ipswich Town, Watford, Millwall, Leeds United, Birmingham City and Queens Park Rangers.

Players with double his experience rarely feature for so many teams throughout their careers, but the softly-spoken Londoner has always shown a determination and confidence and is now establishing himself back at Spurs.

His performances during their good early season form prompted Hodgson to bring him into the England squad for the games against Moldova and Ukraine, but it was something of a surprise when he was named in the starting lineup on Friday.

He did not let his coach down, playing with a confident maturity far beyond his years from the start, beating defenders this way and that, crossing or shooting until he was replaced 10 minutes from time.

Townsend set up the opening goal for Wayne Rooney after a 70 metre run that left defenders trailing in his wake and capped a superb performance with England's third goal on 78 minutes that effectively settled the game.

Picking up a loose ball, he ran forward and unleashed a swerving shot that went in off the post and killed off Montenegro's resistance.

A suitably impressed Hodgson told reporters: "We agonised over whether to play him or not, I grant you that. We had plenty of discussions and argued things back and forth because on this occasion we had so many players to choose from.

"Of course we're glad it worked out for us. Andros got man of the match and must be delighted with his evening's work.

Many other players -- including the godfather of the modern Spurs, Bill Nicholson in 1951 -- scored on their England debuts and never played for their country again.

But on this form, it will not be a surprise if he starts again against Poland on Tuesday and makes many more appearances in the years ahead.

(Reporting by Mike Collett, editing by Justin Palmer)

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