Ashton stakes his claim for England call-up
Dean Ashton insists he is ready to finally win his first cap for England if he is called up for the Euro 2008 qualifying double-header next month amid growing concern over the fitness of first-choice striker Michael Owen.
Steve McClaren's resurgent England team will face Estonia and Russia in October, with the England manager awaiting results of a scan on Owen's groin injury.
Owen was substituted shortly into the second half of Newcastle's 3-1 win over West Ham at St James' Park on Sunday, when Ashton scored his second goal in two games for the visitors.
'I am 100% fit,' said Ashton, after completing his first full Premier League match since breaking his ankle during an England training session in August last year.
'I can last the games well and I feel strong and quick. As for sharpness, I'm improving day by day. It was a long time to be out so it does take time to get all that back but I am getting close.
'I just have to play well for West Ham and it's down to Steve McClaren who he picks and I would be delighted if I was one of the players chosen for next month's Euro 2008 qualifiers. I wouldn't be playing if I wasn't ready for an England call-up. I have been ready for a long time.
'It would be lovely to realise that dream of winning my first England cap but I have to be patient and hopefully it will come.'
Another one of England's current injury concerns is David Beckham, but Los Angeles Galaxy club president Alexi Lalas insists the midfielder will return to action when they, not he, decide he is fully fit.
The former Real Madrid and Manchester United midfielder has been sidelined by a knee strain which ruled him out of England's recent Euro 2008 qualifiers with Israel and Russia.
'Just because David says he is healthy, that does not mean he is healthy,' Lalas told the Daily Telegraph.
'When we are confident that he is 100%, physically and mentally, at that time we will see him on the field and not before.'