Capello ponders captaincy choice and recalls Heskey

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Fabio Capello will reveal the identify of the new England captain – a straight choice between Rio Ferdinand and John Terry – to the squad tomorrow morning before facing the media at lunchtime, and two of the men present at that breakfast meeting owe their inclusion to injuries.

Paul Robinson and Emile Heskey were added to the England squad by Capello because of Chris Kirkland's sore back and the cramp that forced Dean Ashton to be substituted for West Ham on Saturday, after scoring two goals, which further confirmed the striker's frustrating lack of fitness.

Capello was at Upton Park for that encounter and was sufficiently impressed by Heskey's contribution to call him into his squad, which faces the Czech Republic at Wembley on Wednesday, for the first time since he starred in the 3-0 victory against Russia last September. His participation since has largely been curtailed by injury.

The news that Ashton would have been chosen ahead of him, as well as Heskey, will make depressing reading for Darren Bent – whose chances had been talked up during the week – but more relevantly for Peter Crouch, who has been left out for the first time since the Italian took over.

Although Capello remains an admirer of the Portsmouth striker – and there were indications yesterday that he may be included for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers if his form improves – his poor contribution during the Community Shield match against Manchester United raised doubts in the manager's mind.

Given that one of the main factors behind Crouch's exclusion appears to be his failure to combine effectively with Jermain Defoe, it would appear to indicate that the latter, whose movement and predatory instinct has impressed Capello, will start against the Czechs. If he plays well he would be favourite to lead England's line against Andorra and Croatia.

That reasoning is ironic for Crouch, who left Liverpool in the summer to advance his international ambitions and form a partnership, for club and hopefully country, with Defoe.

Capello was at Stamford Bridge yesterday to watch Chelsea play Portsmouth while the England general manager, Franco Baldini, cast his eye over Manchester United and Newcastle, having watched Middlesbrough play Spurs on Saturday. The England coach has named 23 players for the friendly. The squad includes Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard even though both have thigh injuries.

Robinson has been recalled, and features for the first time under Capello, but he has fallen behind Joe Hart as well as David James in the pecking order. Indeed, had Kirkland been fully fit – he played against West Ham for Wigan but is not deemed to be worth risking – he would have been included while Scott Carson's lack of confidence and Ben Foster's lack of first-team appearances has left England short of options.

Capello has been frustrated by the lack of fitness surrounding a number of key players in his squad and has also had to deal with the less than desired fact that 13 of his squad were involved in games yesterday. However he also made clear during the summer that he felt his team would be ready to face the Czechs and should be judged on that performance ahead of the vital games to come.

The captaincy issue is one that has become an unnecessary distraction but also one that Capello has prolonged. Given that he expressed surprise at the obsession with the choice in England he has prevaricated until the last moment. The candidacies of Gerrard and Gareth Barry have been dismissed and although Capello would like to have considered David Beckham he understands he cannot have a captain who is not playing in Europe.

That has left Ferdinand and Terry, who have both impressed Capello. It is understood to be a "50/50" decision between the two central defenders.

Michael Carrick was withdrawn from the squad following the injury he suffered in Manchester United's draw with Newcastle.

England squad v Czech Republic

*The England squad chosen to take on the Czech Republic on Wednesday at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday:

Goalkeepers: James (Portsmouth), Robinson (Blackburn Rovers), Hart (Manchester City).

Defenders: Bridge (Chelsea), Brown (Manchester United), A Cole (Chelsea), Ferdinand (Manchester United), Johnson (Portsmouth), Terry (Chelsea), Upson (West Ham United), Woodgate (Tottenham).

Midfielders: Gerrard (Liverpool), Barry (Aston Villa), J Cole (Chelsea), Bentley (Tottenham Hotspur), Lampard (Chelsea), Beckham (LA Galaxy), Downing (Middlesbrough).

Forwards: Rooney (Manchester United), Defoe (Portsmouth), Walcott (Arsenal), Heskey (Wigan Athletic).