Scholes must make public statement if he wants England recall
Fabio Capello and his advisers have decided that Paul Scholes will have to make a public announcement that he is available to play for England if they are to consider him for Sunday's squad for the first two Euro 2012 qualifiers.
The attitude of the Capello camp makes it even more unlikely that the 35-year-old will opt to reverse his decision of six years ago to retire from international football. There have been suggestions that Scholes is prepared to change his mind, having turned down the chance to return on the eve of the World Cup finals squad announcement in May.
Scholes has expressed regret that he turned down the offer to return to the England team when it was extended to him – not for the first time – on 10 May, the day before Capello named the 30 players who made up his provisional World Cup squad. The Capello camp have always maintained that he initially agreed to do it and then changed his mind overnight.
The Manchester United midfielder's performances this season have demonstrated that even now, six years since his last cap, he is still capable of playing for England. However, all the indications from the interviews he has given in the last month have been that he will not come back for a two-year qualifying campaign.
Wayne Rooney, his Manchester United team-mate, hopes Scholes will change his mind. Rooney said: "He is one of the best players in the country, a fantastic player. It's his decision and Fabio Capello's whether he wants to try to pick him. It's down to those two – but I'd like to see him playing."
The experience with Scholes and the recent international retirements of Wes Brown and Paul Robinson have wounded Capello and his advisers to the extent that they are now unwilling to bring players into England squads who they feel may turn them down or subsequently withdraw. That also goes for Mikel Arteta, Everton's Spanish midfielder, who has made some vague suggestions that he would like to be considered for the England squad.
The Capello camp would now prefer the Football Association to make all decisions on which players are eligible, or acceptable, to play for England. They think that would mean there would be no controversy over the question of foreign players being assimilated as English.
On Sunday, Capello makes his squad announcement for next week's game against Bulgaria on 3 September and the second Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland in Basle four days later. He now regards Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs as the understudy to Ashley Cole. Wayne Bridge is currently injured but it is anticipated that Gibbs, who made his debut this month against Hungary, will be a fixture in future squads.
Yesterday another United player, Rio Ferdinand, defended Capello's record, insisting the Italian does not deserve the criticism he is has been receiving. "We qualified in great style," said Ferdinand, who would have captained England in South Africa had he not been injured on the eve of the tournament. "The media people who were saying he's 'Don Fabio' now have changed course.
"We didn't play well at the World Cup, we know that. But it doesn't make him a bad manager. A lot of people are jumping too far. He needs to make some big changes in the squad but who are we to argue? We just do what he wants us to do. It's about England winning."
Ferdinand yesterday joined Rooney, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton in guiding Fifa's inspection team around Old Trafford as they continued their assessment of England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup.
"I hope we are successful so we can have one big festival of football," said Ferdinand. "We have just about every culture represented here in Manchester so I can guarantee they would get a warm welcome."
Charlton was part of England's last bid, the unsuccessful campaign for the 2006 tournament, and he admitted the prospect of World Cup matches at Old Trafford would be emotional. He said: "Games at this ground have inspired people all over the world for generations and I would love to see World Cup matches played here."
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