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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug 31, 2008

Capello springs shock as Bullard in England squad

Jimmy Bullard has been handed a shock England World Cup call-up as coach Fabio Capello looks to begin the road to South Africa by beating Andorra and Croatia. The 29-year-old has barely earned a mention as a potential candidate for Capello's squad, even after the loss of Steven Gerrard, who accompanied Owen Hargreaves and Michael Carrick onto the injured list. But Bullard has found favour following an excellent start to the season, following his influential role in keeping the Cottagers up last term. Capello is presumably banking on Bullard's experience helping him overcome any nerves at his first call-up and the Londoner's chirpy character should certainly help in the England dressing room. It is also a reward at Bullard's decision not to chase a place in the Germany squad by taking advantage of his grandmother's birthplace. Having been out of the game for 15 months following cruciate ligament surgery in September 2006, it is a testament to Bullard's strength of character that he not only returned to action but produced performances good enough to attract Capello's attention. However, anyone who has seen Bullard rise from total obscurity at Gravesend & Northfleet would have no doubt about his determination and dedication, even if his major claim to fame in his career so far is the role he played in Wigan's rise from League One to the Premier League. Bullard's joy will contrast sharply with the dejection of Michael Owen, who has been left out despite making his first full appearance of the season for Newcastle at Arsenal yesterday. With Capello in attendance at the Emirates Stadium, it was felt Owen would be part of the Italian's 23-man squad, particularly as he has scored matchwinners against Bolton and Coventry in the past week. However, Capello gave an indication Owen would miss out earlier this week. 'Owen is a good player and always scores a lot of goals for England,' Capello said on Wednesday before adding: 'But he has not played and at this moment, we need fit players.' Whether Capello can afford to be without Owen, one of only four players to score 40 goals for England, is a debatable point, if not for the meeting with Andorra in Barcelona on Saturday, then certainly for the crunch clash against Croatia in Zagreb four days later. Instead, Capello has stuck with the four strikers from the squad that earned mixed reviews for their performance in the draw against the Czech Republic at Wembley on August 20. Once again, Peter Crouch has been left out despite scoring for Portsmouth at Everton yesterday, although the performance of another Pompey man at Goodison Park, Jermain Defoe, suggests he will be the man asked to partner Wayne Rooney at the Olympic Stadium at Montjuic next weekend. Capello will be hoping to avoid the kind of abuse Steve McClaren endured at the same venue 18 months ago, when Gerrard's double and a late David Nugent effort staved off total humiliation against the part-timers after a goalless first-half. That embarrassment provided the trigger for David Beckham's return and the former England skipper has retained his place in Capello's squad even though his punishing schedule - he followed the England game with a trip to Beijing for the Olympics handover - and lack of worthwhile match practice with Los Angeles Galaxy as the reasons behind an apparent decline in performance. With Manchester City keeper Joe Hart returning to England Under-21 duty and Jonathan Woodgate injured, Robert Green and Joleon Lescott have been recalled, while Glen Johnson will provide cover for Wes Brown at right-back as Gary Neville, like Owen, is deemed not fit enough and Micah Richards picked up a knock in City's win at Sunderland.England squad for World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia on September 6 and September 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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