Capello singles out Milner for praise

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The Independent Football

England coach Fabio Capello feels James Milner is improving at every stage of his footballing development.

Capello has identified the Aston Villa man as one of the players who could gatecrash his World Cup squad later this season.

Milner was handed his first England start in Doha on Saturday as a largely second-string side slipped to a 1-0 defeat against Brazil.

Yet former Leeds and Newcastle man Milner was one of the few to emerge with any credit, which was no mean feat given he was up against Maicon, one of the best right-backs in the world.

"James Milner is improving," said Capello.

"Maicon is one of the best right-backs in the world. He is very fast. He is a good defender and when he goes forward he is really dangerous.

"But Milner played well. He is a good player too."

It is about as close as Capello gets to a ringing endorsement of one of his own players and if Milner fails to make South Africa from here, something will have gone seriously wrong.

The same cannot be said of David James, who has been left in no doubt that Capello will ditch him unless he recovers from a knee injury which has plagued him all season.

The 39-year-old goalkeeper has not started a game for England since the qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley on April 1.

Although the eight games since do include the return encounter with the eastern Europeans, when James replaced Robert Green after the West Ham keeper had been sent off, it represents a long time out for the man who is supposed to be Capello's first-choice.

Certainly it appeared that way in August, when Capello hinted James was still his top man, even though he had missed the World Cup qualification double-header in June to undergo shoulder surgery.

Since then, it is his knees that are causing James the problem.

And, in revealing the full extent of his injury, Capello added a warning to James.

"I spoke with David James but he needs time (to recover) after every game," said Capello.

"Every time he plays, he can't train for two days afterwards so we preferred that he stayed at home.

"If he is fit, he will probably be with us (in South Africa). But if I choose the players they have to be fit - he has to be fit."