Fabio Capello will turn to Fulham's emerging new goalkeeper David Stockdale when he names his England squad tomorrow for the start of the Euro 2012 qualification campaign against Bulgaria and Switzerland.
Stockdale is 24 but has only broken into the Fulham first team this season because of Mark Schwarzer's back problems, augmented by the Australian's dispute with the club over his proposed move to Arsenal. Stockdale has played just three times in the Premier League for Fulham and has made only six senior appearances for the club.
Capello's first choice goalkeeper is now Joe Hart with Birmingham's Ben Foster as his understudy. However, Stockdale gets the nod as third-choice with the usual candidates unavailable. Robert Green requires an operation next week, Paul Robinson retired from international football this month and Chris Kirkland is going through a chronic loss of form with struggling Wigan Athletic.
Following on from his hat-trick against Young Boys in the Champions League qualifier second leg on Wednesday, Peter Crouch will be recalled to the squad having been left out by Capello for the friendly against Hungary this month. The squad will meet on Monday at their base in Hertfordshire and the first game against Bulgaria is at Wembley on Friday, a new slot for England games.
It is telling that Capello has switched England's final training session on Thursday before the game against Bulgaria to Wembley. The England manager has said before how the stadium can be intimidating for his own players. Switching the final session to Wembley is Capello's way of getting the players used to a venue that has not always been a happy home ground for them.
England crowds at the new stadium have not hesitated to boo their own players. Against Hungary this month John Terry and Ashley Cole were singled out and the team was booed off at half-time. Traditionally England use Arsenal's London Colney training ground, which has been designed to be completely private, for all their training sessions before Wembley internationals.
The following 10 days, finishing with a tough game away against Switzerland in Basle on Tuesday week, will be crucial to Capello's prospects of staying in the job. His relationship with the Football Association, who took five days in the summer to decide whether he should keep his job, will be placed under even greater strain if his team drop points.
Unless injuries change Capello's plans over the weekend there will be no call-up for Joe Cole who has had a difficult start to the season at Liverpool. Capello believes that Ashley Young and Adam Johnson offer more on the right wing although he has not altogether ruled out recalling Cole. Like Crouch, Cole found his chances at the World Cup in South Africa severely limited.
There was a discussion in the Capello camp about selecting the Newcastle striker Andy Carroll for the senior squad following his development with the under-21s and a hat-trick against Aston Villa. However, it was felt that Carroll would only be a back-up striker and would be more use to Stuart Pearce, the under-21s coach, whose team has European Championship qualifiers against Portugal and Lithuania on the same dates as the senior team's games.
The same goes for Jack Wilshere who, having been given his senior debut against Hungary, has been moved back down to the under-21s for next week because Pearce's need for the Arsenal midfielder is the greater. Fears remain over Ashley Cole's ankle problem however, so Arsenal left-back Kieran Gibbs will be selected in the senior squad as his understudy.
Wilshere's manager at Arsenal, Arsène Wenger said he was "surprised" his player was not in the full England squad. Wenger said: "If Capello wanted to select him and not to play him, it is maybe better he plays in the under-21s. But for me, he has done well. There are a lot of midfielders [in the England squad]. But it's a surprise because he was brought on and maybe he would have started in a friendly so he must have had a good impression of him."
There are still doubts over whether Jermain Defoe will still go ahead with his groin operation that is scheduled for Tuesday and would rule him out the England squad. In his absence, Capello anticipates that Wayne Rooney will be back. He is due to play for Manchester United against West Ham today having missed the Fulham game with a stomach complaint.
Tottenham midfielder Tom Huddlestone, 23, who has impressed this season and was watched by Capello at White Hart Lane in the win over Young Boys, is expected to be recalled. He made the provisional 30 for the World Cup but missed out on the final squad.
Q. Who is David Stockdale? A. England's latset reserve goalkeeper
Q How long has he been on England's radar?
Not long. He has played in both Fulham's league games this season and in their 6-0 win over Port Vale in the Carling Cup, in place of Mark Schwarzer. He kept a clean sheet against Bolton and he saved a penalty from Luis Nani in the second game of the season against Manchester United.
Q. Where did he come from?
He was born in Leeds but was developed at York City's academy. Darlington signed him and after his first season there – 2007-2008 – there was a lot of interest in him from Premier League clubs. While at York he was sent on loan to non-league clubs Wakefield, Emley and Worksop Town.
Q. How did Fulham get him?
Barry Simmonds, the chief scout at Fulham, had been at Darlington when they signed Stockdale from York. He and Mike Kelly, now Roy Hodgson's goalkeeping coach at Liverpool and formerly at Fulham, made sure that Fulham were first in the queue to sign Stockdale from Darlington. He made his Premier League debut against Everton last September.
Q. He is 25 next month – why has he not broken through earlier?
It is tough for goalkeepers at the top level. Only seven other Premier League clubs have Englishmen as their first-choice goalkeepers. Fulham loaned him out three times but Stockdale has been given his chance this season and in just two games he has made the England squad.
Q. Has he played for England at junior level?
No, but curiously he has played for the England National Game XI. That is the England team for non-league players. The team has run under various different guises over the years and other old boys who went on to be full England internationals include the former Arsenal favourite Alan Smith and Steve Guppy (who won one cap against Belgium in 1999).
Key Squad Decisions
Peter Crouch, Tottenham, striker
Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal, defender
Tom Huddlestone, Tottenham, midfielder
David Stockdale, Fulham, goalkeeper
Joe Cole, Liverpool, midfielder
Jack Wilshere, Arsenal, midfielder