Young Gunners receive call-ups
Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs will represent the dawn of a new England era next week after being named in Fabio Capello's squad to face Hungary at Wembley on Wednesday.
Only ten of the Three Lions's FIFA World Cup™ squad have made it into this friendly line-up, with goalkeepers Robert Green and David James are not included and new Liverpool signing Joe Cole also left out. Bobby Zamora heads a revamped forward line, which also includes Carlton Cole and Darren Bent in addition to Wayne Rooney.
There are returning faces too, in Manchester City's Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott of Arsenal, who were both axed from Capello's provisional squad prior to the FIFA World Cup. Manchester United's Wes Brown and Phil Jagielka of Everton come in to bolster the defensive ranks.
Born on New Year's Day 1992, Wilshere will become the tenth youngest England international of all-time if he plays some part against the once-mighty Magyars. Wilshere has already set a few notable landmarks in his fledgling career, including becoming Arsenal's youngest league debutant two seasons ago and being the fifth 16-year-old to feature in the UEFA Champions League.
With five U-21 caps to his name, he has already made a favourable impression on Stuart Pearce and his half-season on loan at Bolton last term did not go unnoticed by Capello. Knowing he must now look to the future, the Italian views Wilshere as the ideal age to develop at a more rapid rate, which is why he was included and Jack Rodwell is not.
Ashley Cole was one of the few to emerge from the South Africa debacle with their reputation intact, so Gibbs' contribution at left-back will probably be as back-up.However, the Lambeth-born 20-year-old was already on Capello's radar last year and in all probability would have made the World Cup squad ahead of Stephen Warnock had he not suffered a season-ending injury in November.
At 29, Zamora is not a youngster. However, Capello was keen to include the Fulham star in his provisional squad, only for injury to rule out that option. With Emile Heskey now retired and neither Peter Crouch nor Jermain Defoe considered, Zamora was an obvious choice. West Ham striker Cole has been around the squad before, as has Bent, although Gabriel Agbonlahor will probably consider himself unlucky.
There was better news for another Aston Villa player though as Ashley Young has been recalled, with neither Shaun Wright-Phillips nor Aaron Lennon being retained.
Most of Capello's senior men are included, with John Terry keeping his place, even if his partner next week remains something of a mystery. At various stages of the FIFA World Cup, Ledley King, Jamie Carragher and Matthew Upson had the job.
All three have now been ditched, which would hint at a straight fight between Jagielka, who won the last of his three caps against Ukraine at Wembley last year before a serious knee injury put a halt to his blossoming career, and Michael Dawson, who was called into the World Cup squad as a replacement for injured skipper Rio Ferdinand but did not play a game. Another omission was Liverpool new-boy Joe Cole, a player Capello clearly has reservations about.
The goalkeeping position is now up for grabs as his senior men have gone. Given David James' age and Robert Green's blunder against the United States, it is hardly a surprise both men have been dropped.
It should pave the way for an intriguing battle for England's No1 slot between Joe Hart, who is not guaranteed to be Manchester City's No1 this season, and Ben Foster, who joined Birmingham from Manchester United this summer because he faced precisely the same situation at Old Trafford.
Paul Robinson offers more experience, but as has been the case so often, it would appear the Blackburn man will end up being number three.