England call too strong for Carragher

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The Independent Football

Jamie Carragher has admitted he could not turn down the chance to play for England again.

Three years after announcing his retirement from the international scene, Carragher is back, attempting to be one of the 23 players Fabio Capello will rely on to bring the World Cup back to Blighty in July.

It was a staggering about-turn, which Carragher accepts he never thought would happen, especially given much-publicised comments in his autobiography highlighting how England's fortunes paled alongside those of his beloved Liverpool.

But, the 32-year-old freely accepts, with Liverpool's fortunes taking a nose-dive, and Capello making such a big impression since replacing Steve McClaren in December 2007, he started to look at the Three Lions in a whole new light.

"I made my decision a few years ago for different reasons," he said.

"This opportunity to try to get into the 23 has come up again now and was something I couldn't turn down.

"Fabio Capello is one of the best managers, not just the England team have had, but in world football over the past 10 or 15 years.

"I was always asking Steven Gerrard what the manager was like when he came back from England duty. That was a massive reason behind it."

Carragher was initially approached by Capello's assistant Franco Baldini a couple of months ago, when injury threatened the participation of both Joleon Lescott and Wes Brown.

As fears turned into reality for the central defensive pair, so Baldini's polite request turned into a plea, which Carragher ultimately acceded to.

Not that the Anfield favourite is oblivious to the pain being suffered by the men who are going to be left behind when Capello's eventual 23-man squad leave for South Africa on June 2.

After all, he has been through it himself. "Of course I have sympathy," said Carragher.

"I missed 2002 World Cup through injury so I know how they feel. I understand it. But injuries are part and parcel of football."

In a sense, Carragher has shown mental toughness just by walking into the dressing room.

He knew there might be an element of resentment from players who slogged all the way through qualifying and then find they are being joined by someone who played no part.

Equally, Carragher has put himself right into the firing line of the notoriously hard-to-please Wembley crowd, who will wave England bon voyage against Mexico on Monday in the knowledge Carragher has previously slighted them.

Not that the 32-year-old is too concerned about adverse crowd reaction.

"I will be fine," he said. "Hopefully I will be involved and get some sort of game."

That is what Carragher needs most of all.

For while most assume that having persuaded the defender out of retirement there would be little point in Capello leaving him out in a fortnight, Carragher is taking nothing for granted.

And, at England's Austrian mountain hideaway in Irdning, he is eager to take any chance he gets to please his new boss.

"The manager has never seen me before on a day-to-day basis," he said. "He doesn't know what I am like around the hotel and what I am like in training every day.

"He has seen me for Liverpool and maybe likes me as a player but it is different when you are in a squad.

"It is difficult to guarantee anybody a place, especially someone in my position.

"Hopefully I can impress him on and off the pitch over the next two weeks and be part of that squad."

Once again, all members of the England squad available for training played some part, including Ledley King.

Chelsea's four FA Cup finalists, plus David James, were due to arrive this evening, whilst Gareth Barry remains at home in Manchester having treatment on the ankle injury which threatens his participation.

Such is Capello's attention to detail that not only has he taken his players to a training camp at altitude to get them used to conditions they will face in South Africa, he has also provided them with oxygen masks, to help their systems adjust that bit quicker.

"You wear them five minutes on and five minutes off for about an hour," revealed Carragher.

"It is beneficial for the players and hopefully we will see that in South Africa."