Agbonlahor and Jenas likely to benefit from Capello's opening shot
Italian's fresh eye looks to give youth a chance in Swiss friendly
He has talked the talk, through an interpreter, and now he must pick the squad. This Saturday, the English public will be given a significant insight into the way Fabio Capello's football brain works when he names the two dozen or so players who have impressed him sufficiently in the past six weeks to merit inclusion for his first match, the friendly at home to Switzerland on Wednesday week.
Apart from major tournaments, few squads are scrutinised with as much interest as a manager's first. What will his particular prejudices be? Who does he like and not like? Steve McClaren, like Bobby Robson before him, made a pointed statement by dropping the captain, David Beckham, as well as David James, Sol Campbell and Scott Carson, but later had to recall all four, who must now convince a new manager all over again.
As a foreign coach, Capello has been casting a fresh eye across the whole landscape, just like Sven Goran Eriksson and the ubiquitous Tord Grip did. The Italian team, with Franco Baldini in the Grip role, have studied videotapes of England's doomed European Championship qualifying campaign and watched club matches live since the opening weekend of the year. It has therefore been a good month in which to find some form, like Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jermaine Jenas, and abad time to lose it, like Paul Robinson and Theo Walcott.
Although McClaren has bemoaned the declining amount of international quality available, there is no shortage of candidates. The squad named for the fateful last game against Croatia and the preceding friendly in Austria contained 25 names, to which Darren Bent was later added. Nine other serious contenders, including John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney, were unavailable and two more, Michael Carrick and Jenas, were omitted.
So three-dozen players are immediately in the frame. Then there are those who have figured in the past and might please the new man. Just as McClaren recalled Phil Neville after more than a year's absence, might the Italian have taken a shine to, say, Robert Green, Glen Johnson, Luke Young, Michael Dawson, Matthew Upson, Stephen Warnock, Scott Parker, Aaron Lennon, Kieran Richardson or David Nugent?
By adding a handful of Premier League regulars – Kevin Nolan, Kevin Davies, Carlton Cole and Reading's James Harper – the list is close to half a century before even considering graduates from last season's successful Under-21 side. Of that crop, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Joe Hart, James Milner and Tom Huddlestone have all begun the year well; while Steven Taylor, Leighton Baines, Nigel Reo-Coker and Matt Derbyshire must all be harbouring hopes for the future, if not next week.
Choosing between James, 37, and Hart, 20, in goal will give an indication of whether Capello leans toward experience or youth. Were he immediately facing competitive games, he might remember his compatriot Dino Zoff winning the World Cup at 40 and opt for James, but the four or five friendlies beforeSeptember offer an opportunity for the younger brigade. Green also deserves to return in place of Robinson.
Of those defenders who missed out last time, Ferdinand and Ledley King are fit to return but Terry and Gary Neville are almost certainly not. Three left-backs being a luxury, Nicky Shorey may miss out to the Chelsea pair of Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge, while Wes Brown will need to hold off Johnson.
In midfield there is a surfeit of wide players on both flanks, and a shortage of defensive ones to understudy Owen Hargreaves. Capello saw excellent performances at Everton in midweek from the Chelsea pair of Joe Cole on the right and Wright-Phillips in the centre – neither of them playing in their normal international position. Ashley Young has done well enough to stay in, and assuming David Beckham is to feature for the 100th and last time, Milner will probably have to wait.
Tempting as it is to leave out Michael Owen on current form, Capello may want to see him alongside Rooney in attack, while retaining the tested options of Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe. A crop of strikers including Alan Smith may lose out, perhapswith Campbell, Phil Neville and Stewart Downing.
Possible squad: Carson, Green, Hart; Richards, Brown, Ferdinand, King, Upson, Lescott, A Cole, Bridge; Hargreaves, Beckham, Bentley, Wright-Phillips, Gerrard, Barry, Jenas, J Cole, Young; Agbonlahor, Rooney, Owen, Crouch, Defoe.
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