Capello stands by forgotten Heskey

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The Independent Football

Emile Heskey has fallen down the pecking order at Aston Villa in their last two league games to the extent that he is now the third-choice striker in a team that only uses one at any time but Fabio Capello is determined to play him in England's friendly against Slovenia on Saturday and the World Cup qualifier against Croatia four days' later.

Heskey, 31, was part of the England squad that had their first training session of the week together yesterday at London Colney although he, like the other players whose teams were in action on Sunday, was excused from the main session. Heskey has held his place in the squad despite making only a 10-minute substitute appearance against Liverpool last Monday.

Capello's usual rule is that players who are out of contention with their club sides should not be considered. His devotion to Heskey as the centre-forward in his side to complement Wayne Rooney, however, is so deep-rooted that the England manager is prepared to overlook the player being left out of the team on Sunday.

The Capello camp believe that Heskey is simply the unlucky victim of a tactical switch by Martin O'Neill after Villa's opening day defeat to Wigan. Since then O'Neill has abandoned the 4-4-2 system in favour of the 4-5-1 that was used to such effect at the start of last season with Heskey omitted.

The striker did play a full 80 minutes in the team in a Europa League qualifier on Thursday but that was in order to rest Gabriel Agbonlahor between Premier League games.

Agbonlahor continues to be overlooked by Capello who picked five strikers in his 24-man squad for the next ten days in order to look at as many players as possible now that he has his squad for such an extensive international break.