Bolton manager Owen Coyle declared yesterday that his striker Kevin Davies doesn't deserve to end his career without winning an international cap.
In the aftermath of his outstanding performance in Saturday's win at West Ham, the 33-year-old – who rejected the chance of international honours with Scotland to try to win selection for England – admitted he has given up hope of ever wearing the Three Lions on his chest. On a couple of occasions last term he was selected in Fabio Capello's expanded squad before being omitted from the final 23.
But Coyle thinks England are the ones who have missed out. "There is no doubt, within his career, there have been spells when he should have played," the Bolton manager said. "He is a real No 9, a throwback to the old-fashioned type of centre-forward that we all love watching. He is a real leader and a big player in any team.
"If he had ever been allowed the opportunity, he would have represented his country with real aplomb and the English nation would have been proud to have had him in that shirt."
His robust style is viewed by some as unsuited to the international arena. However, it has made the Sheffield-born star a crowd favourite at the Reebok Stadium and Coyle insists he is sinned against far more than he breaks the rules himself. "I am not saying Kevin Davies is an angel. But he receives more punishment than he gives out because that is the nature of the physical battle," Coyle said.
"When I look at the outstanding forwards England have had, particularly the quick ones and the good finishers, they would have benefited from playing alongside Kevin Davies when you think of the knock-downs he could have provided."
Davies is one of the senior players likely to be rested for tonight's Carling Cup trip to Southampton, as is the goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen, which would mean a debut for the promising Hungary-born 21-year-old Alex Bogdan.
Danny Ward will not be involved, though, as the 18-year-old striker is set to go out on loan to a Championship club at some stage in the next few days. "The likelihood is we will be letting Danny Ward go out on loan later this week, so I wouldn't want to cup-tie him," confirmed Coyle.
The manager, who guided Burnley into the semi-finals two years ago, knows the benefits that can emerge from extended participation in a cup competition. "I have always loved cup competitions and I have always believed they can work alongside a league programme," he said. " You want to win every competition you enter. We showed that at Burnley. The Carling Cup run we had there galvanised us and took us on collectively. But over the course of that season, we played 61 games, so you do have to juggle things around a little bit."
Coyle insisted that the midfielder Matt Taylor, who has lost his starting spot following the summer arrival of Martin Petrov from Manchester City, remains a big part of his plans.
At a time when Coyle admits he needs to release players if he is to bring any more into the Reebok Stadium ahead of the August transfer window closing, the 28-year-old has been mentioned as one of those who might make way. But Coyle said: "Matty Taylor is a fantastic player, who has had an unbelievable Premier League career. He is frustrated at the moment because he has been on the bench and Martin Petrov is in possession of that wide-left berth. I can understand that but he has a huge role to play at the club."