Michael Owen was overlooked once again as England manager Fabio Capello announced his squad for the forthcoming FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Capello admitted the Newcastle striker had given him a decision to make by scoring three goals in his last four matches. However, the Italian boss overlooked him for the second round of qualifiers for the 2010 tournament in South Africa, opting to stick with Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey and Jermain Defoe and bring in the latter's Portsmouth team-mate Peter Crouch, who has scored four in his last three games.
In their opening fixtures in qualifying Group 6, England beat Andorra 2-0 away in Barcelona on 6 September before cruising past group favourites Croatia 4-1 away in Zagreb four days later. In changes from the squad selected for those games, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, back from a groin injury, returns to the England midfield ranks, while Joe Cole, injured in Chelsea's 2-0 defeat of Aston Villa on Sunday, misses out.
Fellow midfielders Jimmy Bullard of Fulham and Tottenham's David Bentley are replaced by Crouch and Manchester City winger Shaun Wright-Phillips. West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Scott Carson replaces calf-injury victim Paul Robinson of Blackburn.
Owen, 28, has scored 40 goals in 89 full internationals, making him England's fourth-top scorer of all time, nine short of Bobby Charlton's record. However, Capello hinted at Owen's omission in an interview with Sunday newspapers, citing Newcastle's poor form, plus a need for strikers within his squad to do more than just score goals.
And so it has proved, with Crouch the man called upon to supply extra attacking menace. Bentley's poor form for Spurs has also contributed to him being left out, with Wright-Phillips gaining an immediate dividend from his move back to City from English Premier League leaders Chelsea.
However, neither Wright-Phillips nor former captain David Beckham, who keeps his place, can expect to oust Theo Walcott from Capello's starting line-up given the Arsenal starlet's superb hat-trick in Zagreb. Bullard's surprise first call-up to the squad proved to be a brief stay.
England's 23-man squad named Sunday for the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers at home to Kazakhstan at Wembley here on 11 October and away to Belarus in Minsk on 15 October:
Goalkeepers: Scott Carson (West Bromwich), Robert Green (West Ham), David James (Portsmouth).
Defenders: Wayne Bridge (Chelsea), Wes Brown (Manchester United), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Glen Johnson (Portsmouth), Joleon Lescott (Everton), John Terry (Chelsea), Matthew Upson (West Ham).
Midfielders: Gareth Barry (Aston Villa), David Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy/USA), Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jermaine Jenas (Tottenham), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City).
Strikers: Peter Crouch (Portsmouth), Jermain Defoe (Portsmouth), Emile Heskey (Wigan), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).