England's understudies will get a rare chance to take centre stage in Sunday's friendly against Trinidad and Tobago. Fabio Capello's decision to give an early holiday to seven of the England players who featured in last week's UEFA Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester United has given the Port of Spain clash the air of an audition.
While Wayne Rooney, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Ashley Cole, Owen Hargreaves and Wes Brown are packing the sun cream in preparation for a much-needed break. Capello has take the opportunity to run the rule over the likes of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Dean Ashton, Theo Walcott, Ashley Young and Joe Hart.
Whether playing a meaningless match in stifling heat is really much of reward for the young pretenders is up for debate, especially with Capello's strict training regime to survive as well.
"The players are learning the manager is very strict and very serious and when you train, you train hard, and when you play, you play hard and when you are with the England team, you concentrate and wear that shirt with pride," midfielder David Beckham said. "The players know what he wants and are trying to make him happy and at the moment we are working hard and winning games. There is still a lot to learn and a lot of hard work to do but we are happy at the moment."
Capello could also select his fourth England captain in four matches if he opts to hand the armband to Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry. Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard have already led England under Capello, who is trying out all his options before deciding on a permanent skipper in time for next season's FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers.
Barry's quietly assured England displays have made him a surprise candidate, although his lack of UEFA Champions League experience probably make him the least likely long-term captain.
Beckham wore the armband with pride during Sven Goran Eriksson's reign, so the LA Galaxy midfielder knows how much it will mean to Capello's eventual choice. But even Beckham, publicly at least, is unsure who the best man would be.
"I think Rio Ferdinand has done a great job, Stevie G (Gerrard) has done a great job and obviously JT (Terry). They are all quality captains and all have got the chance of being a captain," he said. "You have to be a strong character to be a captain of not just your club team but your country, and everyone of those players has a strong character and is passionate about playing for their country."
Chance for revenge
Trinidad were only narrowly beaten by England at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and Francisco Maturana's side are undefeated since the Colombian coach took charge. It is the kind of fixture that could easily cause England some embarrassment if they aren't switched on.
Trinidad striker Kenwyne Jones, who plays in the Premier League with Sunderland, was quick to warn England not to underestimate his team. "I think we are going to see a very good game and I know all of Trinidad wants us to beat England this time around because we were seven minutes away from getting a point when we met them in Nuremberg in 2006," Jones said.
"I'm feeling good at the moment and we've come through a good week of preparation for the match. England are coming off a win against the States but I think on Sunday it's going to be a different ball game."