Football

Smalling set for England bow

Smalling set for England bow (©PAphotos)
Smalling set for England bow (©PAphotos).

Chris Smalling could be in line to make his England debut in Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier with Bulgaria in Sofia.

The Manchester United defender was one of three members of the Old Trafford squad to graduate from England's Under-21 squad at this summer's European Championship into Fabio Capello's senior plans alongside Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones following a string of impressive displays at right-back.

"Smalling has improved a lot," said Capello. "He has played with confidence. When he goes forward he doesn't play with fear. I remember him as a centre-back but he is a really interesting player in this position."

Even with Rio Ferdinand missing, having not played since injuring his hamstring at West Brom a fortnight ago, it would represent a monumental gamble for Capello to hand Jones his debut in such an important game without ever having a previous call-up.

At least Cleverley has the experience of spending a day with the Three Lions before the friendly with Holland earlier this month was postponed.

In total, Capello has made six changes, although the absence of Jack Wilshere is enforced due to the Arsenal midfielder's ankle injury.

Manchester's growing position as the powerbase of English football is emphasised by the 11 players named for United, who recorded that astounding 8-2 win over Arsenal, and City, who crushed Tottenham in equally emphatic style at White Hart Lane.

Darren Bent and Jermain Defoe are both recalled, plus Theo Walcott, who was critical of Capello's management style in his recently-published autobiography. Amongst those who miss out are Peter Crouch, who is set to join Stoke this week, and Kyle Walker, who has been overtaken by Smalling for the right-back role.

The major selection dilemma appears to be who will partner Rooney in attack given neither Bent nor Liverpool's Andy Carroll have been in the best of form so far this season.

Defoe started alongside Rooney against Bulgaria 12 months ago and responded with a hat-trick in an impressive 4-0 win.That memory may play on Capello's mind, although the 28-year-old has not scored for his country since.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Topics:
Chris Smalling
Tottenham Hotspur
Arsenal
West Bromwich Albion
Stoke City
Football
Millwall
Championship
Phil Jones
Premier League
Peter Crouch
Manchester United
Jermain Defoe
Jack Wilshere
Darren Bent
Kyle Walker
Tom Cleverley
Liverpool
Theo Walcott
Rio Ferdinand

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