Fabio Capello will attempt to talk Wayne Bridge out of international retirement before he names his provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup finals on 11 May, it emerged yesterday.
The England manager has told his back-room staff that he wants the opportunity to speak to Bridge in order to persuade him that he should reconsider his decision this month, made because of John Terry's alleged affair with Bridge's ex-fiancée Vanessa Perroncel.
The decision to pursue Bridge again was not made because Capello thought that Leighton Baines' debut against Egypt on Wednesday was a disaster but because he feels that, on balance, Bridge is a better, more experienced player. The decision from Bridge, made last Thursday, came as something of a surprise to Capello and general manager Franco Baldini, who thought they had convinced Bridge to continue.
Capello left the talking to Baldini and has not yet spoken to Bridge, but he is prepared to have that conversation between now and the announcement on 11 May of the provisional squad. The 30 players on that list will be involved in the friendlies against Mexico and Japan in May as well as the high-altitude training camp in Austria that was used by Capello when he was Real Madrid coach.
When he made his decision to retire from England, Bridge described his position within the squad as "untenable and potentially divisive" and two days later dodged Terry's handshake before Manchester City played Chelsea. Nevertheless, Capello does not believe that anything is final. He feels that he can persuade Bridge that six weeks away with the England team will not be unbearable.
The England manager is not normally given to heart-to-hearts with his players. But he feels that if he can speak to Bridge and persuade him, then it will put England in a stronger position. He was always planning to address the situation once the Egypt friendly was out of the way.
On Wednesday night, Bridge's Manchester City team-mate Gareth Barry spoke for the first time about the rift between Bridge and Terry. Barry hinted that Bridge might yet change his mind. He said: "I think at this moment in time we are all respecting Wayne's decision. But the manager has left the chance for Wayne to come back so he has still maybe got a decision to make.
"He can do that on his own rather than anyone else pushing him. Will seeing myself and Shaun [Wright-Phillips] doing well for England only help? Definitely. I am not sure if he watched the game but Wayne knows all about playing for England.
"A lot has been written and said about the England squad but, when together, we realise we need to be together if we are going to progress and achieve anything as a team.
"With personal issues, it is tough for professional players to get involved too much when we are meeting up because we are coming together as a team. I obviously respected Wayne's decision and, when we met up, we are a team and you have to be professional about it.
"We showed [in the game against Egypt] it is all forgotten. Even if Wayne changed his mind, we'd all be together, even more so. Like I said, it's good the manager has left it open but let's respect Wayne's decision. But the atmosphere and mood was nothing different from a normal meet-up. We realise this is an important period for us. This was the last game before the meet-up for the World Cup so we don't need any distractions."
The major problem for Capello is his goalkeepers. He had originally planned that Ben Foster would be his No 1 choice but since the Manchester United man pulled out of the friendly against the Netherlands in August it has been difficult to justify playing him because he has had so few chances with his club.
Capello regards it as a straight choice now between Robert Green and David James. The issue with James, who is 40 in August, has been his fitness. He has often been unable to take part in the full training programmes set by Capello's staff. It was for that reason that Capello felt it necessary to stick with Green against Egypt to build up his confidence.
After the 3-1 win over Egypt, Green said that he was glad to be back in the side. He lost his place when he was sent off against Ukraine in October. The West Ham goalkeeper said: "I want to play every game. I enjoyed playing against Egypt. People remind me it was my first game since the sending-off but it is always about looking forward.
"That happened, that is part of life, it was part of something to learn from. You take it on board and you move on. You improve from it. I want to carry on doing so."
Joe Cole is still under consideration for the squad despite the fact that his last cap was 18 months ago in the victory over Croatia in Zagreb in September 2008. Capello is also expected to take just four strikers which, as it stands, will mean that the likes of Carlton Cole and Gabriel Agbonlahor do not go. Michael Owen impressed the Capello camp in the Carling Cup final but will only be considered in the event of injuries to key personnel.Reuse content