Jamie Carragher's return from England exile may turn out to be a short-term affair. The Liverpool stalwart was coaxed out of international retirement by Fabio Capello as injuries began to bite.
Having given Capello a positive response to initial soundings three months ago, providing he was not leapfrogging established members of the Italian's squad, Carragher agreed to return for the two altitude training camps in Austria that are the prelude to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
Although the 32-year-old understands there are no guarantees, it would seem slightly strange if Capello was to take such trouble to persuade Carragher to make himself available, then ditch him when the final squad is submitted to FIFA on 1 June. However, beyond this summer, it does not appear Carragher has much of an England future.
Maintaining his presence for the UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers would force him to miss his own testimonial for a start, given the specially-arranged Merseyside derby on 3 September is scheduled for exactly the same day as England open their campaign against Switzerland at Wembley. "I think going to South Africa is a one-off thing," Carragher said. "There was a little injury situation. I am sure that will be cleared up by the start of next season and I have got my testimonial for Liverpool on September 3."
I think going to South Africa is a one-off thing.
Although such detachment should not be viewed as ambivalence, Carragher has never made any secret that England came second on his list of priorities. His thoughts have not changed, although as the years ticked forward and Liverpool slipped into a sharp and unexpected decline, Carragher sensed an opportunity being offered that should not be spurned for a number of reasons.
"I have been playing football since I was five," he said. "In another five years I probably won't kick a ball again for the rest of my life. So the chance to play at the highest level again was obvious. But the chance to work with this manager was equally important. I am a big follower of football. Over the last 10 or 15 years Fabio Capello has probably been the stand-out manager in world football."
That Carragher did not immediately say yes owed more to his desire to satisfy himself that no-one who had "been to Kazakhstan or Ukraine" in a qualifying campaign that registered nine wins from 10 games, was losing out due to his inclusion. As it turned out, injuries to Joleon Lescott and Wes Brown, which prompted the initial contact from Capello's trusted number two Franco Baldini, did not improve.
That factor allowed Carragher to join up with a clear conscience. "I am not stupid," Carragher said. "I wouldn't have wanted someone to come in and take my place at the last minute when I had been in the squad for two years.
"At first I was racking my brains, wondering how other players would react if I came back into the squad. I only told Steven (Gerrard) and my wife, because we were supposed to be going to Disneyland on Monday, which is now off. A few days later I mentioned it to my dad and my son. Everyone was very pleased and desperate for me to go."
Carragher has a bit of work to do judging by the way he kept getting beaten by Adam Johnson during training amid the Austrian mountains. The first of two camps at altitude, together with obligatory oxygen masks to be worn briefly in the comfort of the players' rooms, is just one example of the professional approach Capello has instilled within the England camp.
As he nears the end of his own playing career and thoughts are starting to turn towards management, Carragher is eager to learn off a master. There is also a sense of unfinished business. Although his retirement stretches back three years - when he abandoned the national cause having decided he had been overlooked as deputies for Rio Ferdinand and John Terry far too often - his FIFA World Cup experience comes from 2006.
Carragher missed one of the penalties in the fateful quarter-final shoot-out defeat to Portugal in Gelsenkirchen, although the whole experience left him with a sense of negativity he has never quite got rid of. "It is a chance for a more positive World Cup experience," he said.
"Although we got to the quarter-finals last time our performances were not great. When you think about it, we were one penalty shoot-out from getting to a semi-final, which in 1990 was fantastic and everyone came back as heroes. In 2006 there was never a performance that got everyone lifted. It was like a grind. It was all negative."