Fabio Capello's attempt to rebuild confidence in his England regime after the summer's dismal World Cup finals showing was undermined yet again yesterday when Wes Brown and Paul Robinson responded to call-ups for Wednesday's friendly against Hungary by withdrawing from the squad and retiring from international football.
There were also suggestions last night that Ledley King, who has not been selected for the squad to face Hungary, was also considering retiring from international football. Any more and it could get embarrassing for Capello.
Both Brown and Robinson were overlooked for the World Cup squad and neither could be considered crucial to England's future but in terms of symbolism it was another blow for an England set-up that is struggling for confidence. Brown, 30, who has 23 caps, came to the England team hotel last night to tell Capello in person of his decision.
In May, the Manchester United defender was regarded as a victim of Jamie Carragher's decision to return to international football and slipped down the pecking order for England. In the end, Capello took just one specialist right-back, Glen Johnson, to South Africa.
Robinson, 30, was rather more abrupt in his announcement. Having been largely ignored by Capello during his time as England manager, the former No 1 choice wasted no time in telling the Italian that he wanted no part of his Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.
Robinson argued that the timing of his decision yesterday morning was not designed to damage the England manager but done purely because it was the first time he had been selected for a squad since making his decision to retire from international football. Nevertheless it certainly came across as an announcement designed to cause maximum embarrassment to the England manager.
Robinson, who has 41 caps, said yesterday: "Only now have I been able to make this decision as previously I haven't been in contention for selection. As a professional who wants to play every time I have the chance I don't see myself as a No 3 or 4 keeper and find that role very frustrating.
"I haven't had the opportunity of anything other than this [not being first choice] in recent years, therefore I feel it in the best interest of myself and my club Blackburn Rovers that I concentrate solely on my club football."
The goalkeeper's club manager, Sam Allardyce, who had previously criticised Capello for not selecting Robinson, said that he thought the player would have agreed to return if he had been assured of a starting place. In the event Capello also selected Joe Hart and Ben Foster who appeared to be ahead of Robinson. Robert Green and David James were also excluded.
Allardyce said: "For the time being, England will miss him. They missed him at the World Cup because he should have gone there. He feels that if he isn't going to be No 1, then he doesn't feel the need to be travelling with England. You'd have to ask him if he'd come back if guaranteed the No 1 spot, but I would presume so.
"Certainly at this moment in time, though, he doesn't feel that's the case. He feels that he should be No 1 and has always felt that way. As my player, I support him because I see him week in, week out and know how well he has performed. It's a big decision he's made, but I understand it."
From his Wembley seat at the Community Shield yesterday, Capello gave the impression of being relaxed and at ease despite the national mood of intense disappointment at his side's showing in South Africa. He had a brief public exchange with the Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick, one of 13 from the World Cup squad of 23 who are not part of the squad to face Hungary, which suggested that Capello told the player he had thought him injured.
Sir Alex Ferguson later said that he had been wrong to rule Carrick out of the running to play against Hungary this week and that the player was now fit. It will be too late for the midfielder now, unless one more of Capello's players withdraws today.
Chelsea denied that anything should be read into Ashley Cole failing to acknowledge Capello as the player climbed the Wembley steps to pick up a losers' medal yesterday. The club said that the England left-back slipped as he reached the top of the stairs and failed to notice Capello as he regained his footing.
Today will also be Capello's first chance to explain his thinking behind an unusual squad selection. The England manager has agreed with the Football Association to break the usual custom of speaking to the press on the day before the game, instead preferring to face up to the inquest before his players are put in the firing line.
Among the notable absentees are Peter Crouch who has scored 21 goals in 40 England caps and was afforded only two substitutes' appearances totalling 18 minutes at the World Cup finals. Also left out was Joe Cole, another player largely overlooked by Capello at the tournament who made a strong case to be included with his performance last week for Liverpool in the Europa League qualifier against FK Rabotnicki.
Aaron Lennon, Shaun Wright-Phillips, King and Matthew Upson are also out. Bizarrely, Scott Parker, Tom Huddlestone and Leighton Baines, who were among the original 30 players picked in May before Capello whittled the squad down to 23, were also left out. It is not clear whether Capello has picked an intentionally experimental squad with the intention of recalling some of the more familiar names for the first Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland next month.
It would appear that he has bowed to pressure to select untried young players from the Under-21s such as Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs, both of whom will be among the players who convene at the Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire today. The uncapped Bobby Zamora is also in the squad, as is Theo Walcott, Ashley Young, Darren Bent, Carlton Cole, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka.
England squad details
Squad for the friendly match against Hungary at Wembley on Wednesday:
Foster (Birmingham, Age 27, 4 caps)
Hart (Manchester City, 23, 3)
Cahill (Bolton, 24, 0)
A Cole (Chelsea, 29, 82)
Dawson (Tottenham, 26, 0)
Gibbs (Arsenal, 20, 0)
Jagielka (Everton, 27, 3)
G Johnson (Liverpool, 25, 26)
Terry (Chelsea, 29, 64)
Barry (Manchester City, 29, 39)
Gerrard (Liverpool, 30, 84)
A Johnson (Manchester City, 23, 1)
Lampard (Chelsea, 32, 82)
Milner (Aston Villa, 24, 11)
Young (Aston Villa, 25, 7)
Walcott (Arsenal, 21, 11)
Wilshere (Arsenal, 18, 0)
Bent (Sunderland, 26, 6)
C Cole (West Ham, 26, 7)
Rooney (Manchester United, 24, 64)
Zamora (Fulham, 29, 0)Reuse content