Sven Goran Eriksson has vowed to continue scouring the country for new talent even though he admits that his England squad is now largely settled. The national coach has developed a core group of around 20 players who are picked each time, depending on fitness.
Apart from experimental friendlies, there are rarely too many changes between each squad and many of those are enforced by injury. But Eriksson has promised to continue his frantic schedule of watching between two and five matches each week, including trips across Europe.
"If I wanted to, I could stay much more at home than I did two years ago and I would maybe pick the same squad," the Swede said. "But I think that it's my job to go out and see football matches. You always learn from every game that you see. If I was a player in the England squad or who might have a chance of coming into it, I would appreciate it very much if the England manager was sitting there looking at me now and then."
Eriksson has a handful of possible call-ups in his mind this season to help narrow down his options for his final squad for next summer's European Championships, if England qualify.
In attack, Eriksson is settled on Michael Owen, Emile Heskey and Wayne Rooney, while Darius Vassell has regularly been picked when fit.
James Beattie is perhaps most at risk and when asked which young strikers are coming through, the England coach observed: "Alan Smith [of Leeds] is one of them, hopefully Jermain Defoe [West Ham] in the future and maybe also Shola Ameobi [Newcastle]."
With Matt Jansen and possibly Francis Jeffers also boosting that line-up, Eriksson has rather less room for experiment in midfield. After all, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Nicky Butt, Kieron Dyer and Owen Hargreaves are all now virtually assured of their places.
Joe Cole, Trevor Sinclair and Danny Murphy have been squad regulars too, with the likes of Charlton's Scott Parker, Newcastle's Jermaine Jenas and Gareth Barry of Aston Villa pushing from the outside. "I think Scott Parker gets better and better with every season," revealed Eriksson of the promising Charlton midfielder.
In central defence, Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand are supplemented by Jonathan Woodgate and John Terry, with Matthew Upson often on the standby list and Middlesbrough's Gareth Southgate seemingly now sidelined.
At full-back, Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge look to have the two left-back spots tied up, while Gary and Phil Neville are contesting the two right-back places with Danny Mills. There may still be room for Chelsea's young defender Glen Johnson.
In goal, David James and Paul Robinson are squad regulars, with Chris Kirkland, Richard Wright and Ian Walker vying for the one remaining place.
There is always the possibility of one player emerging into the senior side, as Rooney did last season. However, even the 17-year-old Everton striker was hardly an unknown quantity to those who had noted his progress through the youth ranks. Champions' League experience also remains a key requirement in Eriksson's mind, proving why Bridge, Cole and Johnson have moved to Chelsea.
Indeed, of the 24 players selected in the original squad for the back-to-back qualifiers against Macedonia and Liechtenstein, 12 were at clubs in the Champions' League, while a further six played in the Uefa Cup, four with Liverpool.
Of the rest, there were single representatives from West Ham, Manchester City, Leicester and Everton, as well as two players from Leeds (one of whom, Mills, is on loan at Middlesbrough). There are few unknown quantities out there. Eriksson, aided by his right-hand man Tord Grip, will nevertheless continue the search - just in case.Reuse content