The beginning of February was supposed to herald the return of Jack Wilshere from a season-long absence but instead, it has been announced, the Arsenal midfielder faces an even longer spell on the sidelines.

Wilshere has not featured at all this term, having undergone surgery on a persistent ankle problem in the summer of last year, and had been scheduled to make a comeback this month.

However, the 20-year-old has sustained a stress fracture to his right ankle and, it has been claimed, Wilshere will not be available for selection again this season.

Arsenal have since moved to deny the latter is true, but the midfielder's extended absence will still serve as a significant blow for Fabio Capello as he makes plans for Euro 2012.

Before his initial injury, Wilshere had begun to establish himself as the creative heartbeat in the England team and led to a cause for optimism leading up to this summer's European Championships.

However, with the expected absence of Wilshere, Capello will be missing one of his most naturally gifted ball players, and is likely to have to call on the now injury prone Steven Gerrard or the increasingly less influential Frank Lampard.

Arguably, the only player now assured a place in Capello's first-choice midfield would be Scott Parker, with the 31-year-old having further reinforced his credentials since his summer move to Tottenham.

Whether or not Capello decides to adopt a five-man midfield or a diamond formation to support two strikers this summer remains to be seen, need for craft and guile in the centre is imperative.

Perhaps the most in-form player of this description currently at the disposal of England is Joe Cole, and injury to Wilshere could end the exile of the former Chelsea star.

Cole is currently spending a fruitful season-long loan spell away from Liverpool with French champions Lille, and has played with the same carefree attitude missing from his game for a number of years.

An injury free spell in France has, of course, helped Cole enjoy the proverbial new lease of life at the Stade Lille Metropole, after a horrid first season with Liverpool.

When on top of his game, there is no English player more suited to head the peak of Capello's midfield than Cole and the Italian would be foolish to continue to overlook the 30-year-old.

Cole did not feature at all for England in 2011 as he struggled both with injury and form after leaving Stamford Bridge for Anfield, but can provide Capello with the innovation he will miss without Wilshere.

For his part, Cole is desperate to force his way back into the international reckoning, but is not holding up much hope of a trip to Poland and Ukraine.

"It has been a long time now since I played in the national team, so I don't know if it would happen again," he told L'Equipe.

"Obviously Fabio Capello's current preference is to play younger players.

"I have 56 caps and I have been playing in national teams since I was 15 years old. Now that I'm not part of it anymore, I want it even more.

"If I was called on, I would be so happy to wear that shirt again. There is a friendly in February and I still have an eye on it, just in case."

Should Capello, once again, overlook Cole then the loss of the England boss could be the gain of his assistant, with Stuart Pearce set to lead a Great Britain team at the Olympic Games in London.

And Cole has already made himself available for selection and is hoping to be named as one of Pearce's three 'overage' players when the squad is announced.

"They sent us a letter to find out if I would be available. I said I will," he added.

"We will see. If I'm in good form, if I play well, I will have an opportunity to go."

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