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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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By ESPN Staff

Ashton must be ready to perform - Brooking

Sir Trevor Brooking has told Dean Ashton he must be ready to perform when he gets his chance to play for England again.

With Michael Owen and Emile Heskey currently sidelined by injury, manager Steve McClaren has selection issues in attack for the forthcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers against Estonia and Russia.

Fit-again Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is expected to be recalled but who plays alongside him is open to question with Liverpool frontman Peter Crouch, Andy Johnson, Jermain Defoe, Darren Bent and Ashton - now back among the goals for the Hammers - all in line.

Ashton had been set to make his full England debut against Greece in August 2006 only to break an ankle training with the national side and miss best part of a year.

However, the former Crewe and Norwich forward has scored three goals in his last three matches - including a dramatic late winner against Plymouth in the Carling Cup at Upton Park last night.

The powerfully-built 23-year-old maintains he is 'ready for England' and former West Ham and England midfielder Brooking - now the Football Association's director of football development - has no doubts Ashton possesses all the traits of a full-blooded international.

'Deano has been out for over a year, which is a long time, and has only been playing again for the last three games,' said Brooking.

'We all know he has got ability, he has just got to work on that match fitness, do it consistently and get that sharpness back to get the spring and the confidence.

'After a long time out, that will take a bit of time. The balancing act is as to when the right time is for him.

'Everyone is aware that when you go into the England side where you play a game, whoever you are, you will have to perform.

'So you have got to be sure Dean is fully fit and raring to go.'

Brooking, who was in Harlow, Essex, today to help launch the FA Tesco Skills Programme, which is designed to give local children free qualified coaching aimed at raising technical standards among five to 11-year-olds, knows the spotlight will soon again be on squad selection for the national team.

'There is going to be a lot of debate about who should play and who should not,' he said.

'The disappointment of somebody means an opportunity for somebody else.

'Hopefully the players will respond if they are given the chance.'

Brooking added: 'Steve McClaren, though, is the one to say who should be in - and I am sure you will have about eight different strikers put forward.

'Probably last time, Emile was not high on many people's suggested list, but Steve came up with him and showed a lot of courage.'