James likely to be England coach Capello’s first choice keeper

LONDON: David James looks set to be England’s goalkeeper for the start of the World Cup after he was assigned the number one shirt for the tournament in South Africa.

England coach Fabio Capello has refused to name his preferred goalkeeper ahead of the Finals and has given playing time to James, Robert Green and Joe Hart during the team’s World Cup warm-up matches.

Portsmouth goalkeeper James, who made his first start in 13 months in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Japan in Graz, looks to have got the nod if the shirt numbers are an indication of Capello’s thinking.

West Ham’s Green has started eight of the past 11 internationals while Hart has forced his way into contention after an impressive season on loan at Birmingham.

But Green has had to be content with the number 12 jersey and Hart 23 when the squad numbers were announced by the English Football Association (FA) yesterday.

Other clues to England’s starting line-up for their opening World Cup match against the United States on June 12 came as Peter Crouch was given the number nine shirt instead of Emile Heskey.

Aston Villa forward Heskey played a key role in the qualifiers, but Tottenham striker Crouch, who has scored 21 goals in 38 appearances for his country, could be Capello’s choice to partner Wayne Rooney.

Crouch was No. 21 four years ago and only started the first two matches because Rooney was injured. He was dropped to the bench once Rooney returned.

An England source said: “Crouchy will be really pleased to get the number nine. He is not taking his position in the team for granted but it is the number all strikers want.”

Chelsea winger Joe Cole was given the number 11 shirt, meaning he could start on the left, while Steven Gerrard has the number four jersey which may put him alongside Frank Lampard in the centre of England’s midfield. — Agencies              

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