Micah Richards has targeted a return to the England senior squad after a commanding performance for the Under-21 side which will have caught the eye of Fabio Capello.
The Manchester City defender found the net as Stuart Pearce's side recorded a 2-1 friendly win over Slovenia at the KC Stadium on Tuesday evening. But it was the display of Richards' all-round ability which will ensure that he will not be kept out of the Italian coach's plans for too long.
As well as getting his name on the scoresheet, and being solid in defence, Richards showed the kind of maturity that both Capello and Pearce have demanded when moving between the respective squads.
"I thought I did OK and obviously got man of the match but that wasn't important – it was about the team," Richards said. "He [Pearce] told me to treat this game like any other game and get the win, which we did, and that is all that mattered in the end. But it's definitely my aim to be in the seniors – that's where I want to be – hopefully I can take my form out of tonight and Mr Capello was watching and has seen what I can do.
"Last season I picked up a knee injury which was a bit frustrating but I am back now with the Under-21s and hopefully I can do all I can to push back up to the seniors. I always feel like I am knocking on the door but last year I got injured and that affected me."
Richards continued: "He [Capello] has probably not seen the best of me yet – I don't think anyone has – so all I can do now is work hard and give 100 per cent for my club and try to get back in the seniors.
"I thought I got off to a good start last season winning player of the month and then I averaged out a bit. This season I'll be giving 100 per cent and make sure I play the best I can in every game and hopefully I'll be straight back in there. It is a big year for me. As long as I can stay injury-free there is nothing stopping me from doing well this season and pushing back into that England squad."
Pearce has encouraged Richards to set himself a goals target for the season after a first half against Slovenia where he could have had a hat-trick. And the defender said he is keen to work on all aspects of his game to enhance his development.
"I'm keen to improve my all-round game which will make me a better player," he said. "We practise some of those things in training and I try to do the best I can. I don't just want to work on the defensive side of my game, I want to work on the attacking side as well.
"I've got a pretty good leap, I attack the ball aggressively. It's one of the strong assets to my game. I want to play my football and play to the best of my ability, to go out there and enjoy it."
John Carew, meanwhile, is backing his Aston Villa team-mates Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young to become big names for England despite being snubbed by Fabio Capello for last night's friendly against the Czech Republic.
Agbonlahor and Young were both part of the England squad at various stages last season with the latter making a couple of substitute appearances for his country.
And Carew sees the attacking duo's exclusion from the final warm-up game before the World Cup qualifiers get under way against Andorra and Croatia next month as a temporary setback.
The Norway international said: "I can definitely see Gabby and Ashley breaking into the England side this season. They can be as good as they want.
"They have great potential. They have everything in front of them. They are both young with fantastic skills and they can both succeed and go a long way in the game.
"It is the start of a new era for England and there is a good generation of players coming through. I think they will be very strong in the years to come – and Gabby and Ashley can be part of that."
Carew, who signed a new contract along with Agbonlahor last week, said: "The good thing is the players want to learn. Gabby has improved so much in just my time here [since January 2007] and I am sure he will continue to get even better.
"He can be as good as he wants to be and there is definitely more to come from him. I also think all the young players at Villa will reap the benefits of playing in Europe this season.
"It's a different way of playing compared to the domestic league, different challenges, and will be of great experience for the boys which will stand them in good stead."Reuse content