Fabio Capello has elevated Daniel Sturridge and Jack Rodwell into the senior England squad for the first time as the national manager seeks to experiment with a more youthful line-up in the forthcoming friendlies against Spain and Sweden.
The pair, who have been regulars in Stuart Pearce's Under-21 set-up, are among four uncapped players in Capello's party effectively now offered an opportunity to prove their worth ahead of Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine in Poland and Ukraine. Gabriel Agbonlahor's form at Aston Villa has earned him a recall for the games at Wembley while the current captain, John Terry, retains his place despite being the subject of separate Metropolitan Police and Football Association investigations into allegations that he racially abused Queens Park Rangers' Anton Ferdinand. Terry's Chelsea team-mate Frank Lampard is expected to captain the side.
Terry is not expected to start the game against Spain on Saturday and could play for only 45 minutes against Sweden next Tuesday, with Capello intent instead upon scrutinising the likes of Joleon Lescott, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Phil Jones at centre-half for periods across the two fixtures. There is no place for Wayne Rooney - the FA's legal team is working on his appeal over the three-match ban which rules him out of the Euro 2012 group stage - or Rio Ferdinand. The latter is understood to have accepted the manager's explanation, delivered in talks at Carrington last week, that he needs more game-time at Manchester United to regain form and full fitness before he returns to the international fold.
Instead Capello appears to have stuck with his intention of fielding an experimental line-up even against Spain, the world and European champions, to offer a glimpse of the national team's longer‑term future. The Italian has been seeking to blood players who have not been scarred by England's recent failures at major tournaments, with nine caps duly covering nine of the 25-man squad, and Kyle Walker is also expected to make his debut at some stage. David Stockdale is the fourth uncapped player.
Sturridge had been mooted as a potential selection for the recent qualifying fixture in Montenegro but has now been properly rewarded for an encouraging start to the season at Chelsea. The 22-year-old spent the second half of last season on loan at Bolton Wanderers and returned to be arguably the Londoners' best player in pre-season, maintaining that form and starting the victory at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday ahead of Fernando Torres. "He's an interesting player and a player who scores goals," said Capello. "I've seen him play right wing, left and centre‑forward. He has improved a lot."
Rodwell, too, has been patient waiting for his chance to impress for club and country but has featured more regularly for Everton this term, while Agbonlahor returns to the squad after a 25-month absence - he has withdrawn from two squads in that time - following a fine opening to his season at Aston Villa. His resurgence and blossoming partnership with Darren Bent means Andy Carroll, who has struggled to make an impact at Liverpool to date, drops out. Glen Johnson returns in place of the in‑form yet under-used Micah Richards, while injury has ruled out Ashley Young.
The decision to select Terry, who denies racially abusing Anton Ferdinand during Chelsea's 1-0 defeat by QPR on 23 October, despite the gravity of the allegations hanging over him was made after protracted talks with members of the Club England board and David Bernstein, the FA's chairman, in London last week. Capello then visited Chelsea's training ground at Cobham on Friday to confirm face-to-face that the 30-year-old would be selected.
"We had a meeting with the FA on Friday," said Capello. "We spoke to John Terry. I think he is innocent until proved guilty."
Goalkeepers: Hart (Manchester City), Carson (Bursaspor), Stockdale (Ipswich Town)
Defenders: G Johnson (Liverpool), Jones (Man Utd), Cahill (Bolton Wanderers), Terry, Cole (both Chelsea), Baines, Jagielka (both Everton), Lescott (Man City), Walker (Tottenham)
Midfielders: Lampard (Chelsea), Rodwell (Everton), Downing (Liverpool), Barry (Man City), A Johnson (Man City), Milner (Man City), Parker (Tottenham), Walcott (Arsenal)
Strikers: Bent (Aston Villa), Sturridge (Chelsea), Agbonlahor (Aston Villa), Zamora (Fulham), Welbeck (Man Utd)
So, thoughts? Anyone should/shouldn't be there? Personally I was surprised by there being no Micah Richards on the list - what does he need to do to get a call up nowadays?