Fabio Capello will turn to England's exciting crop of youngsters when selecting his Three Lions squad for next summer's European Championships, in a bid for 2012 glory in Poland and the Ukraine.
The Italian tactician will include the likes of Kyle Walker [Tottenham], Jack Rodwell [Everton], Daniel Sturridge [Chelsea], and a trio of Manchester United prospects - Danny Welbeck, Chris Smalling and Tom Cleverley - in his 23-man squad, having been impressed with their contributions in the recent round of international friendlies against Spain and Sweden.
A source close to Capello told the Sunday Mirror that the England boss has already made his decision to take a new-look squad to the tournament, as he oversees a period of transition for the country's national team.
"Fabio has already made up his mind to take the youngsters to Euro 2012," said the source. "Despite success in qualifying, England are in a period of transition and Fabio has been extremely impressed by some of the young players coming through.
"Obviously form and injuries could alter his thinking but at present at least six youngsters will feature in his final squad."
With Wayne Rooney's inclusion surrounded by a cloud of uncertainty following the three-game ban handed to him by UEFA after his sending off in the final qualification match against Montenegro - Capello's striker selection has been one of the most talked about subjects so far, in the build up to next summer's tournament.
Ahead of Rooney's appeal which will be heard by UEFA's disciplinary committee on Thursday, Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has talked up Daniel Sturridge's claims for a place in the squad, saying that his willingness to make sacrifices for his teammates should make him a genuine England contender.
Sturridge's eight goals in 12 games on loan at Bolton last season catapulted him into the big time – so much so that when Villas-Boas arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer, he knew he had to integrate him into his first-team.
"There was no purpose in using Daniel up front," reflected the Portuguese coach, who like Capello, has a plethora of attacking options to choose from. "We all saw his potential on the wing – not only me but also Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti, who was here before me.
"Using him wide doesn't mean we don't think he can perform centrally – if needs be, we will use him there. But for now it will be most likely as a right winger."
Sturridge has made no secret of his desire to play as a central striker, but Villas-Boas believes he has for the time being at least found his best role, and says his form has been a result of that conversion.
"Most of Daniel's improvement is down to natural ability but it is also from his motivation from playing out wide," he added. "That was not always there.
"This is a compliment – because with that focus, you can do better for the team. Daniel now knows that he can sacrifice himself for the team, not play for himself. Playing in that position might be a decisive factor."
Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has backed midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to make a late charge for a place in Capello's 2012 squad after admitting the England U21 international is on the cusp of the Gunners first-team.
The 18-year-old has excelled since arriving at the Emirates Stadium during the summer, scoring on his first two starts against Shrewsbury Town and Olympiakos. He was then the brightest light on the pitch against Manchester City as Arsenal were knocked out of the Carling Cup last week, and now Wenger has welcomed his link with the international set-up.
"I would like to see [him go to Euro 2012] but let's go step by step," said the Frenchman. "I think in England you always take the fast track.
"To go to the European Championships you need experience in the Premier League so it is important he gets that first - [but] he is not far. At the moment we have been quite consistent with the team we put out because we are on a good run and have had no injuries.
"I believe he is still in a period where training every day with top players is important for him to improve. He has quality when he plays in games - he is not fazed by the importance of them. He's the kind of personality that makes you think he can play on the big stage.
"You have seen him already before Christmas and I have no restrictions at all. For me, if I need him he will play. I don't think it is too early for him to play anymore."
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