Reaction to Capello's England squad selection

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The Independent Football

Former England defender Alan Mullery felt Theo Walcott's failure to improve over the last year cost him his place in Fabio Capello's squad for the World Cup in South Africa.

The Arsenal forward was left out of the 23-man party today, with Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon picked ahead of him as England's flying wingers.

Walcott was a surprise inclusion in the 2006 World Cup squad having not played in a single Premier League match and looked a certainty for inclusion after firing a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Croatia in September 2008.

But injuries and inconsistent form have cost him, and Mullery told Sky Sports News: "I didn't think (Capello) would pick Theo Walcott because he doesn't seem to have improved over the last year or so.

"It doesn't surprise me, though it might surprise a lot of people because they will say he has got great pace."

Darren Bent was another man to be omitted as Capello plumped for Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch, Emile Heskey and Jermain Defoe as his four strikers, and Mullery felt Bent missed out because Heskey's attributes make him better suited to international football.

He added: "It's no disrespect to Darren Bent but it's very rare for him to take up balls being played into his feet and then spinning off defenders.

"He uses his pace very well to get behind defenders but if you have got very good defenders as you have at the World Cup then that way (of attacking) would be cut out.

"You have got to be able to get control of the ball, hold the ball up, and Emile Heskey does that very well. Even though he doesn't score as many goals as Darren Bent he can keep hold of the ball."

Along with Walcott and Bent, Manchester City winger Adam Johnson, Tottenham centre-back Michael Dawson, Everton full-back Leighton Baines and central midfielders Tom Huddlestone of Tottenham and Scott Parker of West Ham were the other men cut from the 30-man provisional squad.

Former England striker Alan Shearer is optimistic about this squad's chances of success and told BBC Radio Five Live: "We have a decent chance. I think we need a lot of things to go for us.

"Any team that wins it will need a little bit of luck but perhaps England need a little more than others. But that's not saying that they can't win it. I think they're going to have win a penalty shoot-out somewhere along the line, so can we hold our nerve for that?

"And they're going to have to have decisions, one or two, go their way in the major games.

"But if it all goes right and we keep our main 11 fit then I think we've got a decent chance."

Former England midfielder John Barnes feels Joe Cole will help provide Capello's team with more balance in the World Cup than an out-and-out winger.

Barnes, who played for England at the 1986 and 1990 World Cups, feels England will be best served down the left-hand side through the combination of Cole going forward and his team-mate and namesake Ashley Cole at full-back.

"Joe has re-emerged now, showing his form and quality and I think he would help Ashley Cole," Barnes, winner of 79 international caps, told Press Association Sport.

"Ashley Cole likes to attack and I think when he has a winger outside him he doesn't get forward as well as when he plays with a left-sided midfield player who comes infield a lot.

"If Joe Cole was to play out there, that would help a lot because it would allow Ashley Cole to be like a winger, which is what we want.

"He would also get back and defend, which would give us more solidity in midfield - an extra central midfield player if you like.

"It would help us to keep possession better, because that has been our downfall for the last 20 years - our inability to keep the ball, and in the World Cup that is very important.

"The more players we have who are comfortable keeping possession of the ball, the better."

Barnes added: "I just feel it is important for the balance of the team. I don't think in world football you can really play two out-and-out wingers, particularly if you are not a team who keep the ball as well as the opposition."

On the other flank, Barnes believes Wright-Phillips deserved his call-up in a position where he feels England are spoilt for choice.

"There is an abundance of out-and-out right wingers," said Barnes.

"Shaun Wright-Phillips is one who deserves to go because of his ability, but when you have Wright-Phillips, Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott - also Ashley Young has to be feeling unlucky not to have even made the 30.

"It is unfortunate for the right-sided players that we have so many of them."

Barnes could understand the exclusion of Bent and feels it would have been a waste to take five strikers.

"I think we get caught up in how many strikers we want to take, but there is no other country in the world who will take more than four strikers," Barnes said.

"Look at Spain - they pick players for a nice blend and a nice balance to create a certain method of playing, with two or three strikers that will put the ball in the back of the net.

"We could take seven strikers, but if we are not going to play in a way to create chances for them, it doesn't matter how many strikers you have. So I wouldn't necessarily have taken five strikers.

"Steven Gerrard can play off the front man and Joe Cole has done it as well. So to say we are taking those two and another five strikers, particularly if at times we might only play one up front, would be a waste."

Sir Geoff Hurst, England's 1966 World Cup final hat-trick hero, was not surprised by Walcott's omission.

"For me it's not a surprise," he told Sky Sports News. "It may be a surprise for the general public.

"I've seen him play for Arsenal on the box in the latter part of the season, he's had injury problems and I don't think he's replicated his England form towards the back end of the year."

Hurst did feel, however, that Manchester City midfielder Johnson would have been worthy of a spot on the place to South Africa.

"I think there's a place in the squad for Adam Johnson, who had a late importance coming in from Middlesbrough to Manchester City in the latter part for the season," he said.

"I think if he had been involved for Man City throughout the season he'd have been in the squad. He does give us a bit more variation. I think his final ball is better than the existing wide players we have in the squad and I think he probably deserved a place as a latecomer."

Bent can also count himself unlucky, according to Hurst.

"If you look on form, Darren Bent deserves to go," he added. "Emile Heskey hasn't played much this year but, as in our time, Alf Ramsey picked players irrespective of what was happening at club level if he felt they could do it for his team.

"Fabio Capello feels strongly Emile Heskey is a player who can do it for his team with Wayne Rooney."