Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is surprised that his England counterpart, Fabio Capello, has not called upon the club's in-form midfielders Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan.
Barton, who has a single senior cap to his name, has been in top form for Newcastle this season, while Nolan, who has yet to appear for his country at senior level, has scored 11 Premier League goals.
Pardew said yesterday: "I'm certainly surprised Kevin has never been involved, because of what he is. The problem with England is they are always thinking of building a team, and I absolutely disagree with that. For me, it's about picking your best 11 players. If that's the case, Kevin and Joey deserved to be involved. There's nothing to build with the England national team. Every game is massive, including the next one, and you have got to play your best team. On that basis, I'm surprised Kevin and Joey haven't been involved."
England face Wales in a Euro 2012 qualifier in Cardiff on Saturday week, and then play Ghana in a friendly at Wembley the following Tuesday.
Nolan has previously been courted by the Republic of Ireland, while Barton's international chances have been hampered by the problems which have blighted his career on and off the field.
But the pair, both 28, have been key to Newcastle's drive for Premier League survival this season, and will head into Saturday's trip to Stoke looking to add to the 36 points their side have collected to edge closer to the finishing line.
Barton has missed the last two games with a thigh injury and Newcastle managed just a single point from home matches with Bolton and Everton in his absence. He has a chance of returning at the Britannia Stadium, but Pardew will not risk him if he is not 100 per cent fit.
The midfielder Ahmed Elmohamady is determined to make his stay at Sunderland a long one after agreeing a permanent move. Sunderland confirmed last week that the option they set up when they secured the 23-year-old on a season-long loan deal from the Egyptian side ENPPI will be exercised and that he will complete a transfer, worth around £2.5m in total, to the Stadium of Light when the current arrangement expires.
Elmohamady said: "I like the club and I have done ever since I got here. That is why I stay. Everyone is excellent – the club, players and fans."
The Egypt international has been a hit in the Premier League, where he has played as both an out-and-out winger and a full-back. His manager, Steve Bruce, has been delighted with the player's contribution in his 29 appearances, and the feeling is mutual. "I like Mr Bruce a lot. He has helped me very much since I arrived," Elmohamady said. "My fellow players have treated me well and there is a good feeling in the place. We have excellent players and they are excellent outside the pitch too."
The Stoke chairman, Peter Coates, has stressed that Premier League survival remains the priority this season after watching the Potters reach the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time in 39 years.
Tony Pulis's side beat West Ham 2-1 at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday to set up a semi-final tie with Bolton at Wembley next month. Before that, Stoke will hope to break a four-game winless run in the league, with their first opportunity coming at home to Newcastle this weekend. The Potters go into the game three points above the relegation zone.
Coates said: "To get to Wembley is great for us and it's great for the whole area because we haven't been too often in the past. Are we dreaming of more Cup glory? No, we're not dreamers, we're pragmatists, and I know that Tony Pulis will have nothing on his mind now other than getting three points against Newcastle on Saturday.
"If we can win that game, then it will have been a fantastic week for us because we still need at least six points to make our league position look more comfortable. The priority remains to stay in the Premier League and to finish as high in the table as possible," Coates stressed.Reuse content