Joe Hart is set to be called up into the full England squad for the forthcoming friendly matches against the United States and Trinidad & Tobago. The 21-year-old goalkeeper has impressed manager Fabio Capello with a string of fine performances for Manchester City this season.
Hart, who has already been capped at Under-21 level and is also in the squad for their friendly against Wales in Wrexham next Thursday, is expected to be one of the few surprise names included by Capello for the games in three weeks' time.
West Ham United's Dean Ashton has a chance of being included, as does Tom Huddlestone, of Tottenham Hotspur, while the resurgence in form of the Aston Villa pair of Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor has undoubtedly enhanced their chances.
Although they are friendly games, and the visit to Trinidad & Tobago is regarded as little more than a prestige fixture to aid England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup finals, Capello is taking the gathering seriously. He is considering naming a squad of up to 30 and treating the time he has with the players as a training camp so that he can scrutinise, over a longer period of time, how they behave and train together ahead of the World Cup qualifying campaign which starts in September.
Hart, if he continues to improve, has been earmarked to eventually succeed David James as England's first-choice goalkeeper, with the Portsmouth player turning 38 in August. His main challenger is likely to be Manchester United's Ben Foster, who has just recovered from a serious knee injury, rather than Scott Carson, whose form has tailed off since his error against Croatia in the final qualification game for Euro 2008, although Wigan Athletic's Chris Kirkland also may have a chance of staking a claim.
Hart's rise has been meteoric since he joined City from Shrewsbury Town, for a fee that could rise to £1.5m, just two years ago. He has seen off the challenges of Andreas Isaksson, Sweden's first-choice goalkeeper and Kasper Schmeichel, to be regarded as City's No 1.
Hart produced another fine performance against Liverpool last weekend and yesterday City manager Sven Goran Eriksson described his display as "incredible". On the club's official website Eriksson added: "Joe has been outstanding. I think we are spoiled with the keepers we have at this club and coming to expect that he is playing as well as he is. I always said that I believed that he would play for England, sooner or later, but I think that could be very soon.
"He's matured as a player and as a person this year and in the future I think he will be a real leader. He's a great talent and is already a very good player – and, of course, he will only get better and better."
Eriksson did not say whether he had been informed by Capello that Hart will be called up but it appears the decision has been taken to include him. (Jason Burt, May 8, 2008)
Capello confident that England can rise
WEMBLEY, England - England coach Fabio Capello is confident his underachieving team will reach the goals set out Tuesday by the Football Association - to at least reach the semifinals of major championships by 2012.
Although England failed to qualify for next month's European Championship, Capello believes the players he inherited from the fired Steve McClaren are capable of not only reaching the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, but also of making a big impact.
"I think that you must always be positive," Capello said at Wembley Stadium as the FA launched its Vision 2008-12 mission statement. "My personal objective with every time I have coached and managed is to go to the top, so it's no surprise that these targets have been set. I believe that it's important to have these targets and to work towards them.
"I think we should all be confident with this because the team I have at the moment, I think, is capable of achieving these objectives."
England beat Switzerland 2-1 in Capello's first game as coach in February, but his team lost 1-0 to France in March. Both games were friendlies because England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and doesn't play its first qualifying matches for the 2010 World Cup until September.
Before then, England has a friendly against the United States at Wembley on May 28, another at Trinidad and Tobago on June 1 and then against the Czech Republic on Aug. 20.
The FA's Vision mission statement is an attempt to strengthen soccer at all levels in England.
The document includes the specific goal that England's senior men's and women's teams should make it to at least the semifinals of major competitions by 2012. That would include the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland.
The FA plans to coach children as young as five and hopes that, by the time of the 2010 World Cup, a million youngsters aged up to 11 will be involved in the coaching schemes.
Right now, about 125,000 teams are registered with the FA, which is due to move its headquarters from Soho Square in central London to Wembley. It hopes to have 20,000 more by 2012 and that 8,000 more referees will be recruited to add to the 26,000 currently officiating at all levels.
The FA wants to have a National Football Center by 2010 at Burton in central England. This is a project that has been in limbo for several years, but the FA has finally given the go-ahead to build it at a cost of more than 20 million pounds (C$39.2 million).
Capello, who coached AC Milan, AS Roma, Juventus and Real Madrid to multiple titles at the club level, does not think the FA's announcement is rushing him.
"I am not under any pressure," he said. "I came here to become England manager with the view and the intent of doing things, and I think we can achieve good things because we have got a good team.
"You need to work all the time knowing that the road is long and you need to improve from one day to the next with the view of achieving the important targets that we have set. The past is past. I am confident, I have a good team and I can work on it in order to achieve the targets I have been set."
One of the proposals suggested by FIFA and UEFA to help strengthen national teams is that clubs should field a maximum of five overseas players in domestic games. Some teams, notably England's Arsenal and Italy's Inter Milan, regularly take the field with no homegrown players at all.
But such quotas are against European Union employment law and David Triesman, a former government minister who is now the FA chairman, said he would not support them.
"I understand exactly why (FIFA president) Sepp Blatter and others have made the proposal," he said. "They believe more players eligible for the national sides should play in the principal leagues for their sides. But trying to get European employment law changed may turn out to be too high a hurdle, and I don't want to spend a huge amount of time arguing about the construction of European law if it can't be pulled off.
"What I do think is that it's worth doing everything else that we can which helps bring players through who are eligible to play for England. But I don't propose that we try to do things that are illegal." (May 6,2008)