Capello omits Owen from England squad over fitness

September 1st, 2008 - 7:27 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 1 (IANS) England football manager Fabio Capello, played tough when he overlooked Michael Owen in his squad for the imminent World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia.Instead Jimmy Bullard got an unexpected first call-up to the England squad Sunday night.

The Italian watched Owen, England’s most experienced and prolific forward of recent times, play in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Arsenal and was clearly unimpressed with the 28-year-old’s fitness.

In fact, Capello has opted for only three recognised strikers in his squad: Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey and Wayne Rooney, with the trio boasting only 24 international goals from 119 caps between them.

Yet Owen’s omission was overshadowed by the surprise selection of Bullard, a player whose future at Fulham has been cast into doubt in recent weeks, with Bolton Wanderers apparently keen to lure him to the Reebok.

“I’m absolutely over the moon,” Bullard was quoted as saying in The Guardian. ” I’m so excited, but I just want to go and meet up with the guys now and do whatever the manager asks of me.”

Bullard suffered a dislocated knee and ruptured cruciate ligaments in September 2006 and was sidelined for 15 months but recovered form and fitness to play a key role in Fulham’s successful fight against relegation from the Premier League last season.

The 29-year-old midfielder, who started his career at Gravesend and Northfleet and once went on a free transfer from West Ham to Peterborough United, has been included after Steven Gerrard, Owen Hargreaves and Michael Carrick were all forced out of the contention because of injury.

But there are concerns over the strikeforce selected. Owen boasts 40 goals in 89 England appearances but has played only 45 minutes under Capello. Despite scoring on his two previous substitute appearances this season, he joined Portsmouth’s Peter Crouch and Dean Ashton of West Ham in being ignored. The Italian appears to consider Theo Walcott as his fourth striker, though the Arsenal player usually features on the flank at club level.

England squad for World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia on Sept 6 & 10:
Robinson (Blackburn), James (Portsmouth), Green (West Ham); Lescott (Everton), Bridge (Chelsea), A Cole (Chelsea), Terry (Chelsea), Brown (Manchester United), Ferdinand (Manchester United), Johnson (Portsmouth), Upson (West Ham); Barry (Aston Villa), J Cole (Chelsea), Lampard (Chelsea), Bullard (Fulham), Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy), Downing (Middlesbrough), Bentley (Tottenham), Jenas (Tottenham); Walcott (Arsenal), Rooney (Manchester United), Defoe (Portsmouth), Heskey (Wigan).

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