Fabio Capello has underlined just how far from international football Michael Owen still is by handing Bolton Wanderers' Kevin Davies the England call-up he had stopped hoping for, ahead of next Tuesday's Euro 2012 qualifier with Montenegro.
Davies' prospects of playing a part at Wembley on Tuesday seem limited, since Wayne Rooney has, as expected, been called up despite his club manager's claim last week that an ankle injury would keep him out of the game for up to three weeks. But the 33-year-old Bolton man's selection is an intriguing one which, taken with Capello's decision not to select Newcastle United's 21-year-old Andy Carroll, contradicts his assertion in the aftermath of defeat to Germany in Bloemfontein that he would be investing in youth for the future. Capello seems to view 26-year-old Darren Bent, omitted from the final World Cup squad, as integral to future squads – declaring him "one of the most important players for the future" yesterday.
But the theme of the squad is its return to the past. The senior England management are confident that Rob Green will not submit Capello to the embarrassment of following a call-up with retirement, like Blackburn's Paul Robinson in August, despite the West Ham goalkeeper having been dealt the indignity of still being overlooked by Capello after Robinson's decision. Green is back in the international fold for the first time since his calamitous World Cup, along with Joe Cole and Aaron Lennon.
Davies is selected only 10 days after describing his desolation at having missed out on a previous England call-up that Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp, among others, has said he deserves. "You're waiting for a phone call on a Saturday night. I just didn't want to put myself through that again so now I've put England out of my mind," Davies had said, describing the torment of seeing Gabriel Agbonlahor promoted from the under-21s.
Last night, the 33-year-old vowed that he would not let nerves affect him in a call-up which has come his way with Jermain Defoe, Bobby Zamora and Agbonlahor all ruled out through injury, and Carlton Cole losing his regular place at West Ham.
"I just have to go along and enjoy the experience of being involved with the international team and if I get the chance to play I will do my best to impress," he said.
Davies is hardly threatening Leslie Compton, England's oldest post-war debutant, who was 38 years old when he made his bow against Wales in 1950, or Alec Morten, who was in his 40s when he faced Scotland in 1873, but it would still be a remarkable story if he were to play.
Owen, three years Davies' junior, has looked sharp, scoring three goals in two games for Manchester United against Scunthorpe United and Bolton. But this season, Davies has been as consistent as ever and the beneficiary of Owen Coyle's more attractive style at the Reebok, which has seen the ball played into his feet more often. He was the man of the match in the 1-1 draw at the Hawthorns at the weekend.
Redknapp reflected 12 months ago, after another important display from the player, that "people might look at him and think he's not England [material]; that's he not fashionable. But he's a proper centre-forward. I first watched him at Chesterfield. He just knows how to play, he backs into people, he uses his body, he is a really good centre-forward."
There had been discussion in the Capello camp about selecting Carroll for the senior squad following his development with the under-21s and a hat-trick against Aston Villa. But he was omitted from Chris Hughton's starting XI to face Manchester City after the Newcastle manager discerned that a virus had affected his performance levels in the home defeat to Stoke a week earlier.
Joe Cole's exile has proved to be brief, lasting only three games, though it is Manchester City's Adam Johnson who will feel he has earned the right to a starting place on the right. Injury to Theo Walcott and James Milner's suspension have helped Cole as well, which is probably also true of Arsenal teenager Jack Wilshere, who will link up with the senior squad after the first leg of England's European Under-21 play-off against Romania at Carrow Road on Friday.
Capello's big decisions lie ahead, though. In the absence of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry, Phil Jagielka turned in two towering performances against Bulgaria and Switzerland last month. It would be harsh if he had to make way now, so both Terry and Ferdinand will be sweating on their places. Ferdinand also has the captaincy to worry about. He will soon discover whether Capello believes his paltry two appearances in 10 games since Terry's sacking means the role should go to Steven Gerrard.
squad to play montenegro
B Foster, Birmingham, Age 27, Caps 4
R Green West Ham 30 11
J Hart Man City 23 6
A Cole Chelsea 29 85
P Jagielka Everton 28 6
G Johnson Liverpool 26 29
R Ferdinand Man United 31 78
J Lescott Man City 28 10
J Terry Chelsea 29 65
S Warnock Aston Villa 28 1
G Barry Man City 29 42
J Cole Liverpool 28 56
S Gerrard Liverpool 30 87
T Huddlestone Tottenham 23 3
A Johnson Man City 23 4
A Lennon Tottenham 23 19
J Wilshere Arsenal 18 1
S Wright-Phillips Man City 28 35
A Young Aston Villa 25 9
D Bent Sunderland 26 7
P Crouch Tottenham 29 40
K Davies Bolton 33 0
W Rooney Man United 24 67
TV: England v Montenegro Tuesday 12 October ITV1, 7.45pm
Results so far: Montenegro 1 Wales 0, England 4 Bulgaria 0, Bulgaria 0 Montenegro 1, Switzerland 1 England 3.
England's remaining fixtures: 26 Mar 2011 Wales (a); 4 June Switzerland (h); 2 Sept Bulgaria (a); 6 Sept Wales (h); 7 Oct Montenegro (h).Reuse content