Fabio Capello has begun his last season as England's manager by announcing that the nation's most promising young players will only displace their elders by proving they are their betters.
A mere handful took the opportunity to impress at this summer's European Under-21 Championship, with only Manchester United's Danny Welbeck earning a place in the senior squad for Wednesday's badly timed friendly international at home to Holland, three days before the Premier League starts.
He replaces Jermain Defoe, and Andy Carroll comes back for Darren Bent, who is struggling with a shoulder injury and was taken off in Aston Villa's friendly against Braga yesterday. Micah Richards deputises for the injured Glen Johnson and Jack Wilshere is named despite an ankle injury.
A year ago, following England's wretched efforts at the World Cup, Capello dropped nine players for the first match of a new season and introduced five new caps. Yet only one of those, Wilshere, has gone on to establish himself. The manager regularly cites him as an example of a youngster able to make a breakthrough at the highest level, but he also admits: "It's not easy to find a player like Wilshere, who explodes in six months."
He has been impressed by Phil Jones, Manchester United's versatile signing from Blackburn, who was in the provisional squad of 40. Asked about fresh faces, Capello said: "No, because I need to prepare for the [European Championship] games against Bulgaria and Wales." That means a reprieve for older hands like Frank Lampard, especially since Steven Gerrard is ruled out until September, probably missing the two competitive games as well.
Another midfielder, Scott Parker, was retained even though he stays at West Ham. No serious consideration was given to Joey Barton; Capello said: "He is a good player but he is a dangerous player because sometimes on the pitch you can play 10 v 11."
Apart from the return of Wayne Rooney, few changes are envisaged from the team that finished last season with a draw against Switzerland at Wembley, which left their chances of qualifying for next year's finals in the balance. If they fail to do so, Capello would almost certainly leave this autumn rather than waiting until July as planned.
The opening friendly comes too early again for all club managers, who will be inclined to withdraw any players carrying minor strains or knocks. "Pre-season it's difficult to find good form and it's a terrible moment to play a friendly game," Capello said. "It's too early. I am not very happy for the players. I am not very happy for me. Possibly some players will not be completely fit. The manager says: 'Why are you playing in a friendly game? We need you for an important game in the Premier League.' I know how they think."
After watching Fulham and Liverpool play in the past three days, he will be at Wembley for the Community Shield, but thinks he will have seen no more than seven or eight of his squad of 23.
England squad: Robert Green (West Ham), Joe Hart (Manchester City), David Stockdale (Fulham); Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Bolton), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester Utd), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Joleon Lescott (Man City), Micah Richards (Man City), John Terry (Chelsea), Kyle Walker (Tottenham); Gareth Barry (Man City), Michael Carrick (Man Utd), Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Adam Johnson (Man City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Man City), Scott Parker (West Ham), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Ashley Young (Man Utd); Andy Carroll (Liverpool), Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Wayne Rooney (Man Utd), Danny Welbeck (Man Utd).
Fabio Capello was speaking at an FA MARS Just Play Q&A, the scheme aims to get 150,000 more people playing football by 2013. Search online for Just Play.Reuse content