LONDON: Injuries permitting, Sven-Goran Eriksson seems likely to hand Everton teenager Wayne Rooney his first senior England call-up today.
Southampton’s in-form striker James Beattie and another teenager, Newcastle United midfielder Jermaine Jenas, will also be waiting expectantly when England's coach names his squad for the friendly against Australia on Feb 12.
Stocky 17-year-old striker Rooney is being hailed as England’s best young talent since Paul Gascoigne 15 years ago. He is in line for a first cap for his country having made only 25 senior appearances for Everton, during which time Rooney has managed five memorable goals and one red card.
Beattie’s electric goalscoring form has been like a hammer at Eriksson's door, especially with regular England strikers Michael Owen and Emile Heskey in such poor form for Liverpool.
The Southampton front man has managed 17 goals in his last 21 games and only Arsenal's French striker Thierry Henry has outstripped him in the English Premier League this season.
Jenas, like Rooney, has only moderate Premier League experience following his switch to Newcastle from First Division Nottingham Forest last season.
But the 19-year-old midfielder’s achievement in holding down a place in a title-challenging side this season has caught the eye, as have his four goals in the last five games.
Eriksson is set to omit Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard because he is serving a club suspension for violent conduct so the time may be ripe for Jenas to display his all-round game on the international stage.
With England’s top clubs unwilling to see their players exhausted, Eriksson probably has little choice but to experiment in a game that acts as a warm-up for the next two European Championship qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Turkey.
In goal, West Ham United's David James should get the chance to confirm his number two status behind Arsenal’s David Seaman although James has conceded 23 goals in the last eight games as his club continues to struggle.
West Bromwich Albion’s Russell Hoult may also earn a first senior call while Everton's Richard Wright, like Hoult in fine form this season, has grounds to hope for a recall.
With the game being played at Upton Park, West Ham’s midfield quartet of England internationals – Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Trevor Sinclair and Lee Bowyer – would feel at home, although their form of late hardly merits inclusion.
Owen was rested in Liverpool’s 3-0 win at West Ham on Sunday and manager Gerard Houllier said afterwards he expected Eriksson to take into account the hectic club schedule when deciding who should play against Australia.
It is a safe bet to assume Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger feel the same, so the likes of United's David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown and Gary Neville, and Arsenal’s Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole, will play only bit parts.
Manchester City’s new striker Robbie Fowler seems unlikely to feature as he is short of match fitness and Newcastle defender Jonathan Woodgate, who also left Leeds last week, is still recovering from a torn thigh muscle.
Aston Villa's Gareth Barry and Chelsea’s 34-year-old Graeme Le Saux, who can both play on the left-side of midfield or defence, will be hoping for recalls after showing excellent club form this season – especially in the absence of injured Southampton defender Wayne Bridge. – Reuters