Fabio Capello has tried many ways of communicating to the English what he thinks about English football. He has attempted learning the language with mixed results. He has changed his official interpreter to little effect. But by picking Jay Bothroyd from Cardiff City he might just have cracked it.
He is telling us, loud and clear, that in his opinion English football does not have enough top-class English players for the England manager to pick from. That, amid the injuries to the likes of Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe and Darren Bent, the England team has again reached that embarrassing tipping point where it raids the division beneath the elite 20 clubs for a striker to represent the national team.
For more than a year now Capello has been quoting a statistic about the relatively small percentage of English players in the Premier League compared with Spanish players in La Liga or Italians in Serie A to explain his woes. No one ever listened. But they will have to now.
When Steve McClaren selected David Nugent, then at Preston North End, for England in 2007, Nugent was 21 and on his way up. Bothroyd is 28 and has not played in the Premier League for more than four years. It would have been easier for Capello to pick another young player instead and tell everyone that England had a great future – whether he believed it or not – but he chose not to.
Capello could have avoided this situation any number of ways. He could have picked Kevin Davies even though he does not quite fit the profile. He could have thrown in Daniel Sturridge despite him not playing enough for Chelsea. He could have picked Carlton Cole, whom he has since called up. He could have picked Andy Johnson.
Any of those Premier League players would have tided England over and avoided the issues that Bothroyd's inclusion has raised. Wednesday's game against France is, after all, only a friendly. But Capello seems determined to make English football confront a harsher reality.
Understandably, a call-up for Bothroyd will be a great source of pride for a player who has, by his own admission, had his fair share of ups and down. But without wishing to rain on Bothroyd's parade, this is more about what his England call-up symbolises for Capello's team rather than what it means for Bothroyd personally.
Throughout his career Bothroyd has proved beyond doubt that the level to which he is best suited is the Championship. There is a fanciful notion that the occasion when he threw his shirt at Don Howe after being substituted playing for Arsenal as an 18-year-old in the 2000 FA Youth Cup final was the moment he blew it in the big time.
But as so many footballers have proved, there is an infinite number of second chances for bad boys who are good players. For Bothroyd there have been other clubs but conspicuously few second chances in the Premier League. Footballers, like water in a valley, find their level.
He joined Coventry in 2000 for what turned out to be their last Premier League season, making just eight league appearances. He played two more seasons with Coventry in the Championship before one season in Italy with Perugia (who were relegated from Serie A that season). Two more seasons came in the Premier League at Blackburn Rovers and Charlton Athletic, with Bothroyd largely on the periphery.
Since the summer of 2006, he has not played a game in the Premier League. Those exile years cover Bothroyd from the age of 24 to 28, which could be said to be his prime as an athlete. Yet over two seasons at Wolverhampton Wanderers, a four-game loan spell at Stoke City and now, in his third season at Cardiff, not one Premier League club has seen fit to sign Bothroyd.
Is the England manager seriously saying that he has seen something in this striker that has been missed by the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wenger and Harry Redknapp? That Capello, relatively new to English football and with a scouting staff far smaller than the big clubs, has spotted an international everyone else has missed?
If so, it is a brave game that Capello is playing. Lest we forget, the last time an England manager tried to prove everyone wrong about a certain player's merits we ended up taking Theo Walcott to the World Cup finals as a mascot.
Bothroyd's contract at Cardiff expires next summer and, as a free transfer, he might yet get one more chance in the Premier League. But, if he is an international-class striker, then he is certainly taking his time letting us know. And, if Capello believes that to be the case, then when has he watched Bothroyd play in person?
Managers at all levels like to highlight the paucity of their resources when it suits them. Redknapp calls it being "down to the bare bones" and when managers say it they are not just drawing attention to injuries and suspensions, they are telling us – in a roundabout fashion – that they do not have enough good players to do the job.
Capello is under pressure this week to demonstrate what he sees in England's future. So he has picked Andy Carroll (now an injury doubt), Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere. So far so good. But what are we to divine from Bothroyd's inclusion? That Capello thinks we have a problem. And that he is only too happy for us to know it.
Media silence not a price worth paying for 2018
The England 2018 bid have done their best to disassociate themselves from the activities of the "British media" – as they describe them – in their letter to Fifa, reported in these pages, over the newspaper and television investigations that have caused the governing body such embarrassment.
But it was clear by the way the bid team's letter lurched from avowing "solidarity" with Fifa to acknowledging that "corruption ... must be investigated" that they did not really know how to position themselves on an issue that won't go away.
I feel sorry for England 2018. It would be so much easier for them to run a World Cup bid if they had a cowed, undemocratic press. But if that is the price for getting the tournament, it is not worth paying.
Wilkins suffers the unkindest cut as Chelsea save
Chelsea get so much stick about their reliance upon Roman Abramovich's wealth – his investment is thought to be £750m and counting, but there again it could be much, much more – that it seems unfair to criticise them when they try to make a saving.
They are only trying to do the right thing after all.
They have an enormous staff and just perhaps Ray Wilkins was not the most crucial individual in the club.
It is true that perhaps he could gently have been moved to another role or, as his contract was up for renewal, had his wages reviewed.
But to sack him as abruptly as they did was like the cack-handed, brutal Chelsea of old.Reuse content