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.