Gabriel Agbonlahor claims he is in the best form of his career and is determined to convince Fabio Capello he should be part of his 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ plans.
The Aston Villa striker has been recalled to the England squad for the qualifiers with Ukraine and Belarus after scoring in five successive matches for his club. Agbonlahor believes Capello is looking to decide who will be the best back-up strikers to the likes of current first choices Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey to take to South Africa.
And the 22-year-old, whose last action for his country was against Spain in Seville eight months ago, is hoping to show the Italian he has a key role to play. "The England recall means a lot to me. I've been disappointed I've not made the last two squads so I'm happy to get back in," the Villa speedster said. "Just to get in front of someone like Darren Bent, who has scored seven goals, means he (Capello) is appreciating what I'm doing at the moment.
"I just have to try to keep it up and stay in the squad," he went on. "I knew that if I got back to my best I was in with a chance of getting in there. The manager has given me a chance so hopefully I can reward him if I get an opportunity to play in either of the two games coming up."
Agbonlahor knows the competition to be on the plane to South Africa will hot up with Capello having four games to decide before having to announce his provisional squad for the finals. He said: "If the likes of Wayne Rooney or first choice strikers were to get injured in the World Cup, the manager wants to know who can replace them. I think that is what he is looking at now. Hopefully I will get my chance in the next two games and show him I can do the business. I'll do my best to try and impress him in training and try to get on in the games."
"Have I ever been playing better? No, I don't think so," the player went on. "But I have to give credit to my team-mates as well who are setting me up with the chances. I think I am getting better game by game but I have to try to continue that. I think I've been improving every year and I'm always looking to improve even further."
Villa boss Martin O'Neill believes Agbonlahor has matured as a player and last season he impressed when operating as the lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation when John Carew was injured and before the arrival of Heskey. But Agbonlahor knows that ultimately he will be judged on how many goals he scores and each full season with Villa he has improved with 10, 11 and 13 respectively.
"I've always been conscious of doing as much as I can for the team and working on other aspects of my game and I'm always happy to get back and help out defenders whenever it is needed," he said. "But, for a striker, it's all about goals. Even if you are working hard in other areas, you are judged by how many goals you score.
"At the moment things are going well for me, my confidence is high and I'm certainly not complaining about scoring in five successive games," Agbonlahor concluded. "But I always try to keep my feet on the ground because I know there will be times during the season when I am not scoring. That's when you have to get your head down and work at things but I try not to worry if things aren't going so well."