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By ESPN Staff

James closing on Premiership clean-sheet record

David James is England's top goalkeeper - and soon he will have the figures to prove it.

The Portsmouth star, 36, was again omitted from Steve McClaren's England squad which flopped against Spain this week.

But if he stops his former club Manchester City scoring at Fratton Park tomorrow evening he will equal David Seaman's record of 141 clean sheets in the Premiership.

McClaren dropped James from the national squad as soon as he took over from Sven-Goran Eriksson after the World Cup.

And although he has recently promised the door is still open for Pompey veterans like James and Sol Campbell, 32, the England boss has yet to match his words with action.

James says he will never give up on hopes of being recalled - even though a new keeper wore the England jersey on Wednesday when Ben Foster made his debut.

But James knows the best way to find favour again is to keep producing his outstanding form for Portsmouth.

The only problem is that his team appears to have lost the edge that seemed to cement them in the top six in the first half of the season.

They have not won a league match since Boxing Day - and not scored in their last three Premiership outings.

James is only too glad that points picked up in the early part of the campaign look certain to spare him the anxiety of another relegation scare which almost engulfed City last term.

He said: 'To be honest we would probably have been relegated at City if the season had lasted another month. It was not nice.

'But it wasn't why I left. I was happy enough there. It was just that the Portsmouth offer, and coming back to the south, gave me a lot more options in my life.

'It has been good but, in all honesty, we were due a bad run here. I don't mean that in a defeatist way, but the opposition now have given us a lot more respect.

'They expect us to be strong. Such is the evolution of the season. We are on a bad run, but still well in a position to qualify for Europe .

'It's not all doom and gloom. What we have achieved this season has been down to performances and justifiable. There's nothing lucky about where we are. We've had a chat with each other but it is not some sort of crisis meeting.'

James knows his route back into the England squad will be a tough road. He said: 'I saw the highlights (of the Spain game) on television and I was happy for Ben Foster.

'He's a young man having a good season and being rewarded for good performances.

'In some sort of abstract way it gave me a lot of confidence to think that if you perform you will get a chance.

'International selection in my eyes will always be on merit. So if I maintain a level of performance for long enough then I will get an opportunity.

'I always look for the (England) squad. I'm curious, but I didn't expect anything this time.

'As long I'm happy doing what I'm doing at Portsmouth, which I am, I'm not going to give up on the England opportunity - even if I was 42. And I think I could keep going that long. Why not?'

Joining Seaman on the clean-sheet record books would certainly help.

James said: 'On a personal level, there's a value to it.

'You want to achieve things in the game, but in reality it's not always you who has kept the clean sheet, it is everybody (in the team). There are games when you literally don't have to do anything.'

Pompey boss Harry Redknapp admits he is mystified why James has not been recalled to the England scene.

He said: 'Ben Foster is a terrific keeper. He has a great future, but Jamo should be in the squad.

'He wants to play, he deserves to play and I would like to see him play. He is still the best 'keeper. It's strange he's not in but it's not my decision.'

Redknapp has other issues to resolve. With reports that Pompey owner Sacha Gaydamak has mortgaged the club to the hilt with a specialist bank, the manager is under even more pressure to fulfil the European promise he has built.

Although Kanu has scored 11 goals, Pompey have been short of fire power from other areas in the team and now their solid defence is showing signs of crumbling.

Linvoy Primus and Djimi Traore are huge fitness doubts against City, causing a major reshuffle.