England call up Agbonlahor but Heskey warned

Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor is due to receive a boost ahead of tomorrow's Premier League game at home to Manchester City with a summons this evening to join England's squad for the forthcoming World Cup matches away to Ukraine next Saturday and at home to Belarus on Wednesday week.

A run of five goals in as many games, together with Agbonlahor's versatility, has edged him ahead of the other contender, Sunderland's in-form Darren Bent.

Agbonlahor has never played in a competitive international, which is what the manager Fabio Capello insists these two games are, despite England having qualified for South Africa. After starting two friendlies last winter, against Germany and Spain, Agbonlahor reverted to the Under-21 squad.

Capello likes his pace and goalscoring potential, as well as his ability to play either through the middle or wide on either flank. The England camp just wish that at Villa he was partnering Emile Heskey instead of the latter's Norwegian rival, John Carew. Heskey has been a substitute for most of the season and needs to establish himself if he is to remain first choice for the national team as the target-man playing just in front of Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.

Speaking on Friday at Wembley – where yet another pitch was being laid down following last weekend's Coldplay concert – Capello appeared briefly to suggest that Heskey could be made an exception to his rule that players must be appearing regularly for their club side. "He will be fresh for the World Cup!" the manager laughed, before reverting to his more characteristically sober demeanour to make clear to the Villa man: "He has to play [club football]."

The same point was made, yet again, in relation to Manchester United's Michael Owen, whom Capello made a special trip to see against Wolfsburg in the Champions' League last Wednesday, only for the striker to limp off after barely 20 minutes. Ledley King, he made clear, falls into the same category, the point in his case being that his knee has to be able to stand up to more than one game in a week at a World Cup, which it cannot.

The start of the competition on 11 June may seem a good way away, but there are only four games left, including friendlies in November and March, before a provisional squad has to be named. That offers little opportunity for new names like Bolton's Gary Cahill to appear in the frame. Some older ones will be present at the game against Belarus, when every player who appeared in any World Cup squad during the qualifying campaign is to be invited as a gesture of thanks. The Wembley crowd will therefore be asked to show their appreciation to the likes of David Bentley, Jimmy Bullard and Scott Carson as well as Jermaine Jenas, Stewart Downing and Theo Walcott.

None of those can expect to be among the 24 selected this evening as Capello experiences the most hectic weekend of his handsomely-paid stewardship. Yesterday he rushed from Tottenham's game at Bolton to see Manchester United play Sunderland and today he takes in the matches at Arsenal and then Chelsea before visiting Villa Park tomorrow. That should enable him to cover just about the whole squad in person, except for the West Ham United pair Robert Green and Carlton Cole, plus David Beckham, whose fitness he was checking yesterday.

One other player he will not see is the goalkeeper David James, who as well as worrying about the financial mayhem at Portsmouth will be concerned about whether he wins back a place for the first time this season now that he is fully fit. James would have liked a less equivocal response than the one Capello gave when asked about him on Friday: "Ray Clemence is following him always. I went to Portsmouth to check. I have to decide. I [also] went to check [Joe] Hart."

Possible squad Green, Foster, Robinson; Johnson, Brown or Upson, A Cole, Bridge; Terry, Ferdinand, Lescott; Beckham, Wright-Phillips, Lennon, Milner, Young; Barry, Carrick, Lampard, Gerrard; Rooney, Heskey, Crouch, Defoe or C Cole, Agbonlahor.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen