Andy Carroll, Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson and Phil Jones were all left out of the England Under-21 squad last night, paving the way for Fabio Capello to pick them in his most experimental squad yet to face France in the senior friendly at Wembley on Wednesday.
The Newcastle striker Carroll as well as Arsenal's Wilshere – who has already been capped by England – are expected to play in the France game. Sunderland's Henderson and Jones, the 18-year-old from Blackburn Rovers, are set to be promoted to Capello's squad for the first time when it is announced tomorrow evening.
Capello has promised to use the friendly to give a chance to unproven talent with such a long wait until his next Euro 2012 qualifier – against Wales in March. He will be without a number of regulars including Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe and Frank Lampard next week, giving him the chance to promote many of the Under-21 squad that has qualified for next summer's European Championship.
Another potential call-up is the Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge, who was also left out of Stuart Pearce's squad to play Germany in Wiesbaden on Tuesday but is not assured of a place in the senior squad. Pearce intimated as much yesterday when he said that being left out of the Under-21s squad was not a guarantee of a place with Capello.
Pearce said: "Fabio picking one or two to step up into the seniors might mean we'll be short of a few of those players, so it's given me an opportunity to look at some who are not playing regularly at their clubs and need to get some football with us. One or two who have played a lot for their clubs will also get a little break if they're not needed with the seniors."
Without Rooney, Defoe and Darren Bent among his senior strikers, Capello looks certain to pick Carroll. Peter Crouch and Kevin Davies are also contenders, although it does not give the England manager the option of picking a smaller striker in the Rooney mould if he selects both.
There are also question marks over whether Gabriel Agbonlahor would be fit enough to be selected. He made his first appearance in six weeks as a substitute for Aston Villa in Wednesday's win over Blackpool. Gérard Houllier, the Villa manager, is thought to have told Capello the player is not yet ready.
For the Under-21s, Pearce has given a promotion to Chelsea's 17-year-old midfielder Josh McEachran, who has previously played with the England Under-19s. He has also called up former Chelsea player Scott Sinclair, now at Swansea. The Manchester City midfielder Ben Mee, part of his club's "elite development squad", is also called up.
Micah Richards, who has 12 senior caps but has been virtually ignored by Capello, is in the squad. So is Jack Rodwell, another who is expected to be fast-tracked into the senior squad, despite having not played a first-team game for Everton since August because of an ankle injury.
The Under-21s face Germany, who along with other major European nations the Netherlands, Italy, France and Portugal, have not qualified for next summer's championship. Pearce said: "It's only a small squad but we want to make sure that everyone has the possibility of getting some game time, and one or two players that have been with the squad, but have not had much game time will definitely get the opportunity to feature.
"Certain individuals will push their case between now and the summer for sure and those who have been solid for the team since last summer have got to carry on their form."