Eriksson recalls Cole as Heskey is dropped

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The Independent Football

Joe Cole was recalled to the England squad last night, but unless Sven Goran Eriksson adopts a major change in policy his prospects of a competitive start for England remain as distant as ever.

Joe Cole was recalled to the England squad last night, but unless Sven Goran Eriksson adopts a major change in policy his prospects of a competitive start for England remain as distant as ever.

Cole was called up for the World Cup qualifiers against Austria in Vienna on Saturday, and Poland in Katowice on Wednesday week, but will probably end up on the bench.

That, though, is more than Emile Heskey can hope for after the Birmingham City striker was dropped for the first time under Eriksson's management. Heskey, who has won 43 caps, the vast majority under the Swede, appears to have been usurped by Alan Smith's fine start to his Manchester United career.

Eriksson later moved to reassure Heskey, who has been capped 43 times for England. "The door is not closed for Emile Heskey, but I've seen a lot of Alan Smith and Jermain Defoe recently and they deserve their chance this time," Eriksson told the FA's website,

With Wayne Rooney injured Tottenham's Defoe retains his place but Phil Neville is again omitted. Also absent from the 23-man squad are the Chelsea defender Glen Johnson, who drops back to the Under-21 and Liverpool's Chris Kirkland who is injured again. Robert Green, of Norwich City, replaces him. Shaun Wright-Phillips is included but may miss the Austrian tie because of a back problem.

Heskey's exclusion is long overdue. Though Eriksson remains a fan of the limited but persevering striker, it seems he has realised the quiet forward's international career will never reach the heights forecast when he made a scintillating full debut against Argentina four years ago. On his mind, perhaps, is that Heskey has failed to score in his last 10 appearances for England.

Despite few appearances, Cole has scored twice for his country since then and remains a player of genuine potential. However, he is 23 in November and has been the great hope of English football since he was 15. He made his debut, under Eriksson, in May 2001 but has been unable to break into the starting line-up. Although he has won 17 caps he has only started twice, both times in friendlies, most recently against Denmark last November. His only competitive appearances have been 17 minutes as a substitute against Sweden in the 2002 World Cup and 22 minutes from the bench against Liechtenstein in a European Championship qualifier last year. He went to Euro 2004 but did not play a minute.

Cole was omitted from the England squad for this month's friendly against Ukraine but has since been playing, and playing well, for Chelsea. However, Jose Mourinho has given him a flexible attacking role, a move which is unlikely to be followed by Eriksson even if the England manager said: "It's important for him to find a role at club level. I should be very happy to see him play in the same position for a number of games, which he has almost never done at Chelsea.

"That's the most important thing. It's difficult for me if he's not starting as you don't know which substitutions you will have to do during a game. Ideally, I'd like him playing on the left but I'm being selfish." Cole does at least start nominally on the left for Chelsea, but is hardly a left-winger.

Cole's club team-mate Frank Lampard should start in midfield alongside David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Nicky Butt. With Eriksson still without Sol Campbell and Jonathan Woodgate (both injured) and Rio Ferdinand (suspended), John Terry and Ledley King are the likely central defenders. Assuming the Manchester United players come through tonight's match against Everton unscathed Smith should start up front with Michael Owen and Gary Neville partner Ashley Cole at full-back.

The Austrian squad includes one familiar name, Alex Manninger, the former Arsenal goalkeeper who now plays for Brescia, though he is unlikely to start.

England squad

To face Austria in Vienna on Saturday 4 September and Poland in Chorzow on Wednesday 8 September in World Cup qualifiers: James (Man City), Robinson (Tottenham), Green (Norwich), G Neville (Man Utd), A Cole (Arsenal), Bridge (Chelsea), Terry (Chelsea), King (Tottenham), Carragher (Liverpool), Upson (Birmingham), Beckham (Real Madrid), Lampard (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool), Dyer (Newcastle), Hargreaves (Bayern Munich), Butt (Newcastle), Wright-Phillips (Man City), J Cole (Chelsea), Jenas (Newcastle), Owen (Real Madrid), Vassell (Aston Villa), Defoe (Tottenham), Smith (Man Utd).