Richards eyes England recall

Although Richards became the youngest defender to represent the
Three Lions when he was selected for the friendly against Holland
in November 2006 and then went on to win 11 caps under Steve
McClaren, so far he has been overlooked by Fabio Capello. The
Italian did offer a glimmer of hope last month when he selected
Richards in his expanded 30-man provisional squad for the win over
Hungary, only to cut the 22-year-old from his eventual 23-man
party. However, after forcing his way into Roberto Mancini’s
expensively assembled side this season and claiming a goal that
Carlos Tevez also insists he scored during last night’s 3-0
hammering of Liverpool at Eastlands, Richards might have been in
contention for a place in the opening Euro 2012 double-header
against Bulgaria and Switzerland next month even without Wes
Brown’s surprise retirement. “I was in the 30-man squad last time
and didn’t make the 23 but Wes has retired now so hopefully there
is a spot there for me,” said Richards. Capello’s trusted assistant
Franco Baldini was at Eastlands last night to run the rule over
Richards and the five other members of Mancini’s starting line-up
who England could call upon. Baldini must have been impressed by
the defender’s improved concentration levels, which in the past
have tended to be one of the key factors in Richards being
overlooked. However, aside from buying an amazing collection of
star men, Mancini has also been working hard on the training ground
with those who are already at Eastlands. And, with his naturally
athletic physique, Richards clearly is a young man worth devoting
some time to. “I have worked on my concentration because sometimes
I have tended to switch off a little bit,” he said. “That is when
the danger comes. “But it is a weakness the manager is trying to
help me put right. “He keeps telling me I have the attributes to be
one of the best players in England and that I just need to focus on
being aware and watching the players around me. “If I can improve
that, hopefully I will reach the levels he suggests.” The early
signs are positive given Richards is currently keeping Pablo
Zabaleta out of the City team. Mancini is in the middle of a
delicate bedding-in stage just now, knowing he has to try and keep
his entire squad happy, whilst at the same time bringing some sense
of continuity to a team that has been put together on the back of
five successive busy transfer windows. Injuries are an obvious
curse, although the strength Mancini has amassed means that even
with Alexsandar Kolarov potentially out for two months with ankle
ligament damage and fellow left-backs Wayne Bridge and Jerome
Boateng missing for another couple of weeks with toe and knee
injuries respectively, City could still call on another
international, Joleon Lescott, against the Merseysiders. Yet
Mancini accepts there are some he has no chance of keeping happy,
with Robinho and Roque Santa Cruz both high on the list and ready
to move on. “Robinho wants to leave,” confirmed Mancini of a player
who seems to be destined for Turkey, with Fenerbahce said to be the
latest to try and seal a deal for the British record
£32.5million striker. “I understand that because Robinho is a
good player. “It is the same for Roque Santa Cruz so we will see in
the next few days.” Less clear-cut is the future of Shay Given, who
may come into contention for Thursday’s Europa League decider
against Timisoara and whom Mancini is keen to keep even though the
Ireland star realises he is condemned for a spell on the bench
given Joe Hart’s recent brilliance. “Joe is responding to the faith
I have shown in him,” said Mancini. “It was difficult for me to
make this decision because I have two fantastic goalkeepers. “At
this moment I choose Joe but I hope Shay can stay with us because
we need two big goalkeepers.” Mancini is hoping further news of the
knee injury that consigned Mario Balotelli to the stands last night
is not too bad, which would give the Italy striker a chance of
being fit for Sunday’s trip to Sunderland.