England manager decides to focus on experience for Copenhagen friendly as Euro 2012 qualifying hots up
Pardon the oxymoron but there is a significant friendly ahead. It was clear that Fabio Capello was taking Wednesday's match with Denmark seriously when he signalled an end to experimentation. Youngsters such as Kieran Gibbs and Jordan Henderson may have made their England debuts, against Hungary and France respectively, but they are now in the under-21 party for the fixture with Italy in Empoli on Tuesday and so cannot expect to be included in the senior squad when it is named tonight.
Absorption in Premier League football can divert people from realising that there is a challenge in the Euro 2012 qualifiers. The benefits of England's away victory over Switzerland were diluted by the goalless draw with Montenegro that followed at Wembley. Whatever the standard of the Wales players, there will be an inherent hazard next month to playing such a match at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
It is inevitable that there will be a spate of substitutions in Copenhagen but for a while this ought to be a worthwhile exercise against opponents who also hold realistic hopes of qualifying for the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine. Capello's one concession to youth is no concession at all. The Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has so far had seven minutes of senior international football, against Hungary, but consistency for his club could see the 19-year-old start in Copenhagen.
By and large Capello can feel satisfied with the situation. Rio Ferdinand, with his recurring back problem seemingly overcome, has been in excellent form for Manchester United. Elsewhere in that side, Wayne Rooney's pair of goals against Aston Villa last Tuesday mean that questions about his scoring record are invalid at the moment. It is unfortunate that Andy Carroll, whom Newcastle United sold to Liverpool for £35m, has a thigh strain.
Barring new injuries over the weekend, there may not be all that much to resolve. Some matters, all the same, are of interest. David Stockdale would have been in an England squad by now had it not been for an ankle injury in late August that kept him out when the national team were due to face Bulgaria and Switzerland. Recently the goalkeeper staked his claim with good showings for Fulham but he had been a stand-in for Mark Schwarzer.
The Australian, having spent January with his country at the Asia Cup, came back and, despite Stockdale's good work, was immediately reinstated against Newcastle on Wednesday. Schwarzer then kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 win. Capello will have to decide if it makes sense to call up Stockdale in these circumstances.
With Gibbs on duty with the Under-21s, the manager also has to rule on whether someone such as Everton's Leighton Baines should come in as cover for Ashley Cole at left-back.
Possible squad Hart, Foster, Green, Johnson, Jagielka, Ferdinand, Terry, Lescott, Dawson, Cole, Baines, Walcott, Lennon, Barry, Wilshere, Young, Gerrard, Lampard, Milner, Rooney, Crouch, Defoe, Bent.