Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs will represent the dawn of a new England era after being named last night in Fabio Capello's squad to face Hungary at Wembley on Wednesday.
Only 10 of the World Cup squad have made it into the friendly line-up, with goalkeepers Robert Green and David James not included and Liverpool's new signing Joe Cole left out. Bobby Zamora heads a revamped forward line which also includes Carlton Cole and Darren Bent.
There are returning faces in Manchester City's Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott of Arsenal, while Manchester United's Wes Brown and Phil Jagielka of Everton come in to bolster the defensive ranks.
Wilshere will be the 10th youngest England international if he plays, but he is determined to keep his feet on the ground. "Being called up to the England squad is a proud moment for me and my family, but my first target is to break into the Arsenal team and play on a regular basis," he said. " I need to keep my head down, work hard and stay focused."
On Friday, Capello admitted that he would have understood if the Football Association had wanted to terminate his contract this summer. "I prefer to stay but if the FA decided to sack me, I would have understood it," the Italian said. "I spoke a lot about the situation but I am a fighter and I never stop in my career. I am always looking forward.
"I thought about different solutions and after I spoke with Sir Dave [Richards, chairman of Club England] I decided to stay because I want to improve and play at the Euros – it will be very important for me."
Capello said he would speak to Wayne Rooney after the Manchester United striker was pictured smoking on a night out. "I read something about Rooney in the paper and I know Sir Alex Ferguson was not happy about this. I always spoke with the players and told them they always have to be careful – at every moment. When we meet up I will speak with Rooney and say this is not good."
Supporters baying for blood will have fresh meat on show at Wembley, as Capello promised. Arsenal's 18-year-old midfielder Wilshere is a youngster Capello has been monitoring for a year, while 20-year-old left-back Gibbs has impressed as Gaël Clichy's understudy at the Emirates.
Perhaps a more pressing concern is restoring spirit in a team crushed in South Africa. Capello has faith in the players but do they have faith in him? "I will check," he said. "I've confidence in these players. I hope they have confidence in me."
Capello offered explanations for England's performance at the World Cup, his primary complaint being the physical condition of his players after their long season in the Premier League. "For this reason I hope you have to change something before this tournament," he said, but added that is was impossible to change schedules to mirror the campaigns of Germany or Spain. He said he had concerns over fitness levels in the pre-tournament friendlies but kept them to himself as he did not want to damage morale. "The level of the games were always the same and I was worried," he said. "We tried to do everything. I spoke with the doctors and physios to improve the situation."
He also said that "more or less" it was the players rather than his rigid 4-4-2 system that failed. But he is optimistic about England's chances at Euro 2012. "The first target is to qualify. After, we can speak about what will happen in Ukraine and Poland." He feels England can win the tournament "because I think we can change something. First we'll go to Ukraine, then we will see what we can do".
Capello also defended his decision not to attend the European Under-19 Championships in France, where England reached the semi-finals before being outclassed by Spain. He argued that the players on display were not in his plans. "Before I decided whether I have to go I spoke with Franco Baldini, Ray Clemence and the coaches. I spoke with Stuart Pearce and I spoke with [FA director of football development] Trevor Brooking to see if some players were really interesting to check and monitor. He told me no one was ready for the senior team.
"For this reason I watched all the Under-19s games on TV and I stayed with my family. I will be there [in Bristol] on Tuesday to see the Under-21s."
Ben Foster (Birmingham), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Paul Robinson (Blackburn); Wes Brown (Manchester Utd), Gary Cahill (Bolton), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Michael Dawson (Tottenham), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), John Terry (Chelsea); Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Adam Johnson (Manchester City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Aston Villa), Ashley Young (Aston Villa), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal); Darren Bent (Sunderland), Carlton Cole (West Ham), Wayne Rooney (Manchester Utd), Bobby Zamora (Fulham).Reuse content