Kevin Davies was the surprise name in Fabio Capello's squad for Tuesday's Euro 2012 qualifier but the England manager believes that the Bolton Wanderers striker could be a crucial figure if, as he anticipates, a defensive Montenegro prove to be a tough side to break down.
The Capello camp made the decision to pick Davies because, it is understood, they believe he gives them an extra option to open up a well-organised Montenegro side who, under coach Zlatko Kranjcar, have won their first two qualifiers against Bulgaria and Wales. It is not anticipated that Davies will start the game, but Capello has not picked him to make up the numbers and considers the player to be a viable Plan B
The uncapped forward, 33, is an unusual choice for Capello, who had never mentioned the player before as a potential international. Those close to the England manager say he has been especially impressed with the way in which Davies' partnership with Johan Elmander at Bolton has allowed the Swede to flourish this season and he regards Davies as a good foil for a goalscorer like Wayne Rooney.
Their decision was also informed by the consensus among Capello and his staff that they could not promote Andy Carroll into the senior team after the Newcastle United striker refused to check in with the England Under-21s squad last month when suffering from an ankle injury. Carroll was told that he had to present himself for examination at the team base but declined, citing the fact that his club physiotherapist, Derek Wright, fulfilled the same role for the Under-21s.
Having been told of the situation by the Under-21s coach, Stuart Pearce, Capello thought that it would send out the wrong message to the rest of the squad if Carroll was promoted to the senior side. The England teams at all levels take seriously their prerogative to make their own decisions on players whom clubs declare unfit.
The decision to leave out Carroll, who has also not been picked for the Under-21s European Championship play-off against Romania over the next six days, was made more difficult by the lack of options. The Capello camp believed it would have been impossible to pick Carlton Cole, given that he is not playing for West Ham at the moment, and their failure to persuade Emile Heskey to come out of international retirement for one game has been well-documented.
Capello will leave his major decision – whether he restores John Terry and Rio Ferdinand to the centre of defence – until he has seen the players in training. The squad meet up at the Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire tonight and Capello never makes a decision on selection before he has assessed form and fitness in person.
The Terry-Ferdinand axis has been one of the staples of the modern England team under the last three managers. But like all international careers, theirs are finally up for review. Terry and Ferdinand have not played together since the pre-World Cup warm-up against Japan in May and neither of them of them had any role in the first two wins of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign last month. Phil Jagielka is the most likely candidate to usurp one of them next week, but he is the only one. As has been the case through much of their time with England, there is no great new hope at centre-back.
It is an intriguing question, not least because of the personal relationships both men have with the England manager. There is no doubt that, whatever the public protestations, his dealings with Terry are difficult following his sacking as captain in February and the tensions that simmered at the World Cup finals. If it is Ferdinand who is dropped, Capello is faced with again switching the captaincy, this time to Steven Gerrard, because he cannot have a captain who is not an automatic starter.
The curiosity of the Terry-Ferdinand partnership is that, although it feels as if it has been in place for ever, they have not played together anything like as often as it seems. Of the 88 England games since Terry made his debut in 2003, he and Ferdinand have started just 34 together. Ferdinand's eight-month ban later that year for his missed drugs test can account for some of that but, on the whole, both of them – Ferdinand in particular – have missed games through injury.
In the two Euro 2012 qualifying victories last month, Jagielka played alongside Michael Dawson against Bulgaria and then with Joleon Lescott against Switzerland, demonstrating to Capello that he can be trusted at international level. The Everton defender has made a strong case to stay in the team.
Capello's unpredictability in matters of selection is shown by his decision to promote Lescott above Matthew Upson against Switzerland after Dawson's injury. Upson has been left out of the squad to face Montenegro.
Kevin Davies: The Bolton battering ram
The Bolton Wanderers striker has received 91 yellow cards during his 13 years in the Premier League with Southampton, Blackburn and Bolton, the second-highest total in the league's history after Robbie Savage (96).
Davies has also topped the list for fouls committed in five of the last seven Premier League seasons. Only in 2003-04 (when he was second behind Patrick Vieira) and 2007-08 (second to John Carew) has he not been the league's most penalised player. However, during the same period he was also the player with the most fouls against him – 631.