Capello considers younger options
A handful of England hopefuls will find out on Saturday which of them will be elevated to the senior ranks for Wednesday’s friendly with France at Wembley.
Andy Carroll, Scott Loach, Jack Wilshere, Phil Jones, Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson might all have expected to be included in the under-21 squad Stuart Pearce named for next week’s meeting with Germany.
But their names were missing, raising the possibility of them all being involved against the 2006 World Cup finalists.
It does seem rather unlikely Fabio Capello will call on all six, but Carroll is virtually certain to be involved with Darren Bent having been ruled out, while Henderson was heavily tipped immediately after last month’s draw with Montenegro.
Technically, Wayne Rooney could be picked as he returns from the United States on Saturday, but Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan appeared to block that move when he said the 25-year-old’s ankle injury is due to be assessed by Red Devils’ medical staff on Monday.
That leaves Capello short of firepower, with Gabriel Agbonlahor only just easing his way back to fitness after a groin operation.
Those concerns could present Sturridge with an opportunity, but more likely it lends itself to Steven Gerrard being pushed into a supporting striker’s role, as he filled under Rafael Benitez at Liverpool because it is difficult to see how a combination of Carroll, Kevin Davies and Peter Crouch, who are also set to be selected, could be forged.
Capello does have options in central midfield after Michael Carrick produced an excellent performance in front of the Italian in Wednesday’s Manchester derby, whilst Wilshere has had an excellent season at Arsenal so far.
The England boss could end up in the strange position of having tough selections to make in certain parts of his team and dealing with a lack of options in others.
Theo Walcott is available after missing the Montenegro game and the same is also true of Everton defender Phil Jagielka.
Both men played significant roles in England’s excellent start to Euro 2012 qualifying but now face additional competition.
For Walcott, that comes in the form of Manchester City’s Adam Johnson, whilst Jagielka now must cope with the knowledge both skipper Rio Ferdinand and long-time central defensive partner John Terry are both ready for action.
Capello also has Joleon Lescott at his disposal, although that particular member of the City squad knows his England position is vulnerable as the increasingly-limited opportunities he is getting at Eastlands have been confined to the left-back slot.
The contrast could not be greater than at right-back, where Glen Johnson would be an automatic selection if he recovers from a groin injury.
As Wes Brown and Luke Young have both retired from international duty, Capello’s options if Johnson is not fit would appear to revolve around the uncapped Danny Simpson and Nedum Onuoha, Micah Richards, who has never made an appearance for the Italian and was selected for under-21 duty, and the versatile James Milner.