Amid the euphoria and heartbreak of the final day of the Premier League season, Fabio Capello yesterday announced his England players would have a longer than ever end-of-season international training camp. The surprise new names in his squad for England's two friendlies were Tom Huddlestone, Joe Hart, Stephen Warnock, Phil Jagielka and Dean Ashton.
Most of the 30-man squad for the two games will be expected to meet up four days before the matches – against the US on 28 May and Trinidad & Tobago in the Caribbean four days later – which is unusual for international duty.
The England manager has put down a marker to players and their clubs that he considers these matches of crucial importance as preparation for next September's 2010 World Cup qualifiers by insisting that they meet up early.
As well as the new names, Capello also brought in David Wheater, of Middlesbrough, who was among those reserves cut from the squad for the France friendly in March. Gabriel Agbonlahor, the Aston Villa striker who was injured for Capello's first squad against Switzerland and cut from his second, is also recalled.
Although the squad is the size it is with withdrawals in mind, any players who are called up by Capello, and subsequently pull out without a very good reason, are likely to be putting their long-term international careers at risk.
Among those left out are the Tottenham goalkeeper Paul Robinson, whose international career must now be in serious long-term doubt. As well as Manchester City's Hart, Capello has picked the goalkeepers David James and Chris Kirkland, excellent for Wigan against Manchester United yesterday. The Italian is also known to be an admirer of Ben Foster, the United goalkeeper who has missed virtually the whole season through injury.
Huddlestone has shone this year under Juande Ramos, who has improved the midfielder's fitness. The England Under-21, who is not 22 until December, is highly rated by Capello as a passing midfielder in the mould of Paul Scholes. Huddlestone has also been selected because Michael Carrick is unavailable, and it is understood that the United man may need an operation this summer to cure a knee problem.
Hart, 20, will be thankful he sat out City's 8-1 hammering from Middlesbrough yesterday – his call-up is reward for a steady season with his club.
Blackburn's Warnock, 26, is in as cover in defence, where there are some notable absentees. There are injuries to Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott and Matthew Upson, who would have been considered had they been fit.
Theo Walcott, a scorer for Arsenal yesterday, has also been named in Stuart Pearce's Under-21 squad for next Thursday's friendly with Wales in Wrexham, and he will join up with the senior England squad after that. Capello has told all but the nine players from Manchester United and Chelsea playing in the Champions League final in Moscow on 21 May to join up on 22 May, six days before the first match against the US.
It is the first time that Ashton, 24, has been in a squad since his debilitating broken ankle was sustained while training with England in August 2006 – he was then part of Steve McClaren's first squad as manager. Jagielka, the Everton centre-back, offers Capello a degree of versatility.
England squad for the international friendly matches against the United States on 28 May and Trinidad & Tobago on 1 June: David James (Portsmouth), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Chris Kirkland (Wigan Athletic), Wayne Bridge (Chelsea), Wes Brown (Manchester United), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Chelsea), John Terry (Chelsea), Stephen Warnock (Blackburn Rovers), David Wheater (Middlesbrough), Jonathan Woodgate (Middlesbrough), Gareth Barry (Aston Villa), David Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy), David Bentley (Blackburn Rovers), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough), Owen Hargreaves (Manchester United), Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham Hotspur), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jermaine Jenas (Tottenham), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Ashley Young (Aston Villa), Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa), Dean Ashton (West Ham United), Peter Crouch (Liverpool), Jermain Defoe (Portsmouth), Michael Owen (Newcastle United), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).Reuse content