Capello whittles down England squad

February 2, 2008

Gabriel Agbonlahor is on course to make his England debut after being included in Fabio Capello's final 23-man squad to face Switzerland on Wednesday.

The England manager generally played it safe in whittling down his squad from the 30 provisional names but Villa striker Agbonlahor and his club-mate Ashley Young could provide fresh blood in the friendly at Wembley.

Capello was denied the services of Emile Heskey and Ledley King by injury and announced tonight Curtis Davies (Aston Villa), Glen Johnson (Portsmouth), Nicky Shorey (Reading), Michael Carrick (Manchester United) and Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough) would also miss out.

It means Agbonlahor, 21, is one of four strikers left in the squad and so should feature at some point, as should Young, though it will not be an international debut for the 22-year-old as he played against Austria in November.

After announcing his squad, Capello said: 'I want to be clear that the players who have not made the squad this time are still part of my plans.

'We will be monitoring the form of everyone very closely as we work towards the competitive matches which start in September.

'It is of course a blow to lose Ledley King from the squad. He is a very good player who has impressed me a lot when I have seen him play.

'I am fully aware of his injury status after speaking with Juande Ramos on Friday.

'Emile Heskey's injury is disappointing too but we have to concentrate on the players who are in the squad.'

After today's 1-1 draw with Tottenham - in which King did not feature - Spurs boss Ramos said: 'Ledley is in the process of recovering from injury but it's up to Fabio Capello to decide who he calls up. He has an injury.'

The England squad will gather tomorrow afternoon at their hotel in Watford but Capello will not decide who will lead out the team until the eve of the match.

He added: 'I plan to name a captain for the Switzerland game on Tuesday, but I don't expect to appoint a permanent captain until we start the qualifying games. I want to work closely with the players before deciding on this.

'I'm looking forward to working with them on the training ground. There is a lot of work to do but I am ready for the challenge.

'We have seven months to prepare for our first competitive match but the work really starts now.'

Capello's most difficult choice would have been choosing between Carrick and Tottenham's Jermaine Jenas.

The deciding factor may have been today's 1-1 draw in which both players were involved - the Italian's assistant Franco Baldini was at White Hart Lane and Jenas was particularly impressive.