Defoe called up after injury rules out Agbonlahor

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Jermain Defoe was told by Fabio Capello last night that his loan move to Portsmouth – and goal against Chelsea on Saturday – have earned him a late call-up to the England squad. The striker was called by the England manager to be told he would be replacing Gabriel Agbonlahor who was injured yesterday.

It is understood that Capello laid out his reasons for not selecting Defoe in his original squad to the 25-year-old in a phonecall last night. He told Defoe that the player's failure to hold down a regular place in the Tottenham team this season had counted against him. However, he added that he was encouraged by Defoe's willingness to seek first team football by moving to Fratton Park as well as the goal he scored in the 1-1 draw this weekend.

Yesterday proved a sharp introduction for Capello in the difficulties of managing the England team when his new boy Agbonlahor was forced out of the squad to face Switzerland on Wednesday with an injury that left the Italian with just three fit strikers.

It was to be Agbonlahor's first time in the senior England squad but the 21-year-old had to come off at half-time of Aston Villa's surprise 2-1 defeat to Fulham with a hamstring injury. Emile Heskey also pulled out through injury on Saturday.

Agbonlahor was one of the younger players scouted by Capello who was expected to play some role in Wednesday's game. Having made a big impact at Villa in the early part of the season, however, Agbonlahor has not scored since the end of December and now faces a significant spell on the sidelines. He pulled his hamstring when fouled by Fulham's Simon Davies in the first half.

Defoe, who has 26 caps, will join the squad today. It was not an ideal start for Capello who had picked 30 players on Thursday in order that he would have cover for injury withdrawals. Of the 23 he picked on Saturday night, only Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and Peter Crouch among the five original strikers are fit.

The England players not in action yesterday met at their hotel outside Watford last night with a view to having their first training session today under Capello this evening at Wembley. The team doctor Leif Sward, whom Capello inherited from Steve McClaren, was also among the delegation that met at the England team hotel last night. However, the Swede, who was appointed by Sven Goran Eriksson, could find himself eased out in favour of a Capello appointee. There has always been private disquiet among certain Premier League clubs that Arsenal physiotherapist Gary Lewin also fulfils that role for England – but he too is among the backroom staff for Wednesday's game.

As well as Heskey, Capello also lost the Tottenham captain Ledley King to injury. The five players from the original 30-man squad that was trimmed on Saturday were: Nicky Shorey, Glenn Johnson, Curtis Davies, Michael Carrick and Stewart Downing.

Martin O'Neill, the Aston Villa manager, said that Agbonlahor had wanted to play on. "He went out just after the break to try and run it off and felt it so we didn't take any chances. Of course he is disappointed. I'd like him to join up with the England squad if our and their medical departments agree. That would be nice for him but there's no way he can play."

Capello's England squad

Goalkeepers: James (Portsmouth), Carson (Liverpool, on loan at Aston Villa), Kirkland (Wigan).

Defenders: Bridge, A Cole (both Chelsea), Ferdinand, Brown (both Manchester Utd), Lescott (Everton), Richards (Manchester City), Upson (West Ham), Woodgate (Tottenham).

Midfielders: Gerrard (Liverpool), Barry (Aston Villa), Jenas (Tottenham), Hargreaves (Man Utd), J Cole (Chelsea), Young (Aston Villa), Wright-Phillips (Chelsea), Bentley (Blackburn Rovers).

Forwards: Owen (Newcastle), Rooney (Man Utd), Crouch (Liverpool).