Heskey joins up with England despite injury

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The Independent Football

Emile Heskey last night allayed fears that he would have to pull out of England's squad to face Spain on Wednesday because he is suffering from an Achilles injury. His withdrawal would have left Fabio Capello with just one experienced striker



The 31-year-old reported for duty at the England team hotel in Hertfordshire yesterday to be examined by the Football Association's medical team. Heskey will not take part in training today, but is expected to be fit for the game in Seville, with Capello hopeful that there will be no withdrawals from his 23-strong squad, who were all due at the hotel by 8pm for dinner with the manager and his staff.

Heskey had been considered a doubt, and there is understood to be some aggravation to the injury, after he was substituted after 70 minutes of Aston Villa's victory over Blackburn Rovers. His inclusion will be a relief for Capello, who is already without Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe, Theo Walcott, Michael Owen and Dean Ashton as his striking options.

Rooney was not even named among the substitutes for Manchester United's game at Upton Park yesterday – watched by Capello – which precluded the England manager from picking him on Saturday night, although it had been a consideration earlier in the week. As well as selecting Peter Crouch and Gabriel Agbonlahor, Capello has given Carlton Cole his first-ever England call-up, with the West Ham striker identified as a possible deputy for Heskey if he continues to develop as he has done recently.

"His movement, his strength and his movement without the ball [impress me]," Capello said. "When he is in front of goal he has to be calmer. He is good at the moment. He is young, he is interesting."

Gary Neville was a possibility for this week's squad, but has picked up an injury and missed yesterday's game. It meant a recall for Luke Young, who has not won an England cap since his appearance against Argentina in a friendly in November 2005, and who has been selected ahead of Micah Richards.

Capello claimed he was an admirer of Richards, saying he is a "very important" player for the future, but preferred to keep him in the Under-21s at present. They have a friendly tomorrow night in Malaga against Ecuador.

Promoted from that squad is James Milner, for a first call-up, with the 23-year-old winger bringing the Villa contingent up to six.

Capello defended David Beckham's selection, saying the ex-captain was worthy of inclusion after an impressive spell at Milan. "He is better than he was six months ago," Capello said.

Also in the squad for the match in Seville are the fit-again Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole, with Phil Jagielka included at the expense of his Everton team-mate Joleon Lescott. Joe Hart retains his place among the goalkeepers, despite being dislodged at Manchester City by Shay Given.

England squad v Spain

Green (West Ham), Hart (Man City), James (Portsmouth); Bridge (Man City), A Cole (Chelsea), R Ferdinand (Man Utd), Jagielka (Everton), G Johnson (Portsmouth), Terry (Chelsea), Upson (West Ham), L Young (Aston Villa); Beckham (LA Galaxy), Barry (Aston Villa), Carrick (Man Utd), Downing (Middlesbrough), Lampard (Chelsea), Milner (Aston Villa), Wright-Phillips (Man City), A Young (Aston Villa); Agbonlahor (Aston Villa), C Cole (West Ham), Crouch (Portsmouth), Heskey (Aston Villa).

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