New coach believes in old heads on young shoulders

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The Independent Football

It was not just the former captain who was culled when the first squad with Steve McClaren's imprimatur was unveiled. Nine of the 23 men who travelled to Germany for the World Cup were absent and while some were injured others, like Sol Campbell and David James, may soon be known as "ex-" internationals.

"The door remains open", insisted McClaren, but managers always say that. It usually takes an injury crisis, or a superlative burst of form to force it ajar and only goalscorers are realistically in a position to produce the latter.

While James and Campbell are now likely to have to concentrate on making Portsmouth a Premiership force, Scott Carson and Theo Walcott, who were dropped to the Under-21s, still have their international careers ahead of them. The remaining quartet, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney are injured, the latter's groin strain prompting a rapid promotion for Darren Bent, who had initially been selected for the Under-21s.

Returning to the squad, under cover of Beckham's omission, is another former Old Trafford youth product, the less-celebrated Phil Neville. He is enjoying a revival in Everton's colours, but his reappearance will not be greeted with much enthusiasm. Luke Young, Wes Brown, Jermain Defoe, Kieran Richardson and Shaun Wright-Phillips are also recalled. Defoe's inclusion confirms McClaren's rejection of Sven Goran Eriksson's wild World Cup gamble on Walcott. Wright-Phillips is presumably there because Beckham is not. It is yet to be seen if he can nail down a regular starting place at Chelsea.

There are four uncapped players in the party, Dean Ashton, who had an impressive half-season with West Ham and can expect to win a first cap, Michael Dawson, the Tottenham defender, and two goalkeepers. Chris Kirkland would be capped by now were it not for his injury-prone record but Ben Foster, newly loaned back to Watford by Manchester United, is yet to play in the Premiership. Their inclusion underlines the degree to which the goal areas of England are now dominated by foreign custodians.

It is a youthful squad with Gary Neville the only player over 30. The World Cup finalists, Italy and France, had seven and eight 30-somethings respectively in Germany but McClaren rejected the suggestion that his squad lacked experience. "The core of the team have experienced two or three tournaments," he said. "They have experienced the bad times. As Alex Ferguson used to say, 'you have to go through the fire to learn how to win' and these players have."

The England squad to play Greece on Wednesday 16 August

Robinson (Spurs) Age: 26. Caps: 26

*Kirkland (Liverpool) Age: 25. Caps: 0

*Foster (Man U) Age: 23. Caps: 0

Bridge (Chelsea) Age: 26. Caps: 23

*Brown (Man U) Age: 26. Caps: 9

Carragher (Liv) Age: 28. Caps: 29

A Cole (Arsenal) Age: 25. Caps: 51

*Dawson (Spurs) Age: 22. Caps: 0

Ferdinand (Man U) Age: 27. Caps: 52

G Neville (Man U) Age: 31. Caps: 81

Terry (capt. Caps: Chels) Age: 25. Caps: 29

*Young (Charlton) Age: 27. Caps: 7

Downing (Boro) Age: 22. Caps: 5

Gerrard (Liverpool) Age: 26. Caps: 47

Hargreaves (Bayern Munich) Age: 25. Caps: 34

Jenas (Spurs) Age: 23. Caps: 15

Lampard (Chelsea) Age: 28. Caps: 45

Lennon (Spurs) Age: 19. Caps: 4

*P Neville (Everton) Age: 29. Caps: 52

*Richardson (Man U) Age: 21. Caps: 4

*W-Phillips (Chels) Age: 24. Caps: 8

*Ashton (W Ham) Age: 22. Caps: 0

*Bent (Charlton) Age: 22. Caps: 1

Crouch (Liverpool) Age: 25. Caps: 11

*Defoe (Spurs) Age: 22. Caps: 16

*not in World Cup squad