Cole suffers from England omission

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The Independent Online

The natural optimism evoked by a new football season evaporated for Joe Cole and Phil Neville before their clubs had even kicked a ball. The pair were the most obvious omissions from the England squad for Wednesday's friendly against Ukraine, which was announced by Sven Goran Eriksson on Saturday night.

The natural optimism evoked by a new football season evaporated for Joe Cole and Phil Neville before their clubs had even kicked a ball. The pair were the most obvious omissions from the England squad for Wednesday's friendly against Ukraine, which was announced by Sven Goran Eriksson on Saturday night.

The only other available player from Euro 2004 to be left out was Ian Walker, the third-choice goalkeeper, but with Chris Kirkland fit again that was to be expected.

Cole has a slight ankle injury, which was claimed to be behind his absence, but the player himself expected to be called up. Instead it seems the fears about his England future he hinted at in The Independent on Saturday appear well-founded. Even the international retirement of Paul Scholes has not improved his chances. Shaun Wright-Phillips, of Manchester City, and Jermaine Jenas, of Newcastle United, replace Scholes and Cole in the squad though neither look to be natural candidates to play on the left flank. Wayne Bridge may thus play there although Wright-Phillips can expect a run on the right at some stage.

Neville, who unlike Cole did play in Portugal, has been replaced by Glen Johnson the Chelsea full-back. Johnson may be promising but he did not even merit a place on the bench at Stamford Bridge yesterday and, given the £14m arrival of Paulo Ferreira, is unlikely to play often this season.

Also coming into the party are strikers Alan Smith and Jermaine Defoe who have both started the season well, and Matthew Upson who deputises for the injured Sol Campbell. With Rooney also absent Smith ought to be given the opportunity to prove he can be an alternative foil to Michael Owen, another of the five players in the 24-strong party to move clubs in the summer.

The match is a warm-up for England's opening World Cup qualifying matches, a double-header against Austria and Poland next month. Ticket sales have been sluggish, a fact surely more attributable to the unseasonal date, the £40 ticket prices and the absence of Rooney, than any disgust at Eriksson.

With three Newcastle players included - Jenas, Nicky Butt and Kieron Dyer - the Football Association hope the attendance will reach at least the 35,000 mark. It may help that, following the passing of a new ruling by Fifa at Sepp Blatter's instigation, Eriksson can only use six substitutes.

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