Capello takes strong line with friendly force

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The Independent Online

Fabio Capello will send a clear message to England's top players and their clubs that there should be no unnecessary withdrawals from the national team's end-of-season friendlies by announcing his squad for those two games tomorrow night. The squad will be revealed an unprecedented 17 days before the first game against the US on 28 May.

With the Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart in the squad for the first time, Capello will put his own twist on tomorrow's Premier League title-decider day by reminding his players that their summer holidays must wait. As the season finishes and the anticipation around the Champions League and FA Cup finals mounts, it is Capello's way of saying that international duty is important too.

England play America at Wembley followed by a trip to face Trinidad and Tobago on 1 June in a game that will kick off around 10.30pm English time. The second game is by far the less important but Capello regards the England players' get-together as crucial to the spirit of the squad, enabling him to put in place his philosophy ahead of the World Cup qualification campaign that starts in September.

In particular, he wants to remind the large contingent who will be part of the Chelsea and Manchester United squads in the Champions League final that he is taking these games seriously. Any players who withdraw without good reason, are likely to be putting their international careers in doubt.

Capello has already decided upon a squad of 30. However, there are five or six more that he is keeping in mind should certain players pull out. That back-up group will not be publicly disclosed. One of the new names in the squad is the Manchester City goalkeeper Hart, 21, who will feature in a senior England squad for the first time.

For the senior players there is also the bonus of the captaincy, which Capello will decide in time for the next friendly after these two games, the Czech Republic match on 20 August. Steven Gerrard is out of the running, having been given the job for Capello's first game in charge against Switzerland. Rio Ferdinand impressed against France. Now John Terry and possibly Wayne Rooney will hope for their chance to audition for the job. It will be players like Rooney whose availability will be the big issue at the end of the season. The striker has a hip injury and Sir Alex Ferguson will be eager for the player to rest after the Champions League final, which he is targeting for his return.

The England squad is due to meet on 26 May, up to two weeks after the end of the season for all but England's United, Chelsea and Portsmouth players who have finals to occupy them. The England end-of-season friendlies have traditionally been plagued by players withdrawing.

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