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Dec 15, 2008

Milner is the future for England, says Capello

England boss Fabio Capello hinted that James Milner could be the next Aston Villa youngster to be called into his squad when he gave his annual progress report to the FA on Monday.

Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young have taken the plaudits as Villa challenge for a place in the top four of the Premier League - but Capello's eye has also been caught by Milner.

''I'm very happy for players that play with Aston Villa,'' Capello said. ''They are young players and are performing. The other young player I like is Milner. He is the future, my future.''

The 22-year-old midfielder, who holds the record for England Under-21 caps, could make his debut in the senior squad when England convene in February for a proposed friendly against Spain or in two months' time for the clash against Slovenia in March.

Capello is keen to reward the U21's with a chance at senior level, something that is common place in his homeland Italy, and gave young Chelsea defender Michael Mancienne a surprise call into the England squad to play Germany in Berlin after some impressive performances for Stuart Pearce's Young Lions.

Capello also said that he is looking to maintain the momentum of this season's World Cup qualifiers, with four wins from four on the path to South Africa.

Their last finals were undermined by Wayne Rooney's red card in the quarter-final against Portugal, but Capello insists there is no problem with the Manchester United forward's temperament, despite his clash with Aalborg's Kasper Risgard last week.

''When he played with us he was aggressive but not unfair with opposing players,'' Capello said. ''He was strong, not unfair. This is important. He is a very important player for us.''

The Italian insists he will consider Michael Owen for future matches if the Newcastle striker is fit.

Owen, who scored his ninth of the season in his club's win at Portsmouth this weekend, is England's top scorer currently playing but has not started a game under Capello.

''I will watch him in January and after that I will decide if he is okay for the next squad,'' Capello said.

''The most important thing for him will be his fitness because the last three times I selected squads he was not fit.''

Fitness will also be what Capello checks when he decides on whether to give David Beckham the chance to earn his 108th cap, which would equal Bobby Moore's record for an outfield player.

''If he plays for AC Milan, it's possible. If he doesn't play then he will not be in the squad,'' Capello said. ''It's the same for all the players. I will decide after talking to the coaches, not on sympathy.''

Beckham has been used mainly off the bench during Capello's successful first year as England boss.

Capello also spoke of his hope to be granted as much time as possible with the England squad to prepare for the 2010 World Cup finals.

The Italian is thought to prefer an earlier start to the next domestic season so he can spend time with the squad before the tournament in South Africa.

He considers the extended period he spent with the squad last summer as a key contribution to four wins from as many qualifiers - and believes the period before the finals themselves will be vital.

''I think it is very important because I can work with the players and practise a lot,'' he said. ''After training I can check everything and then I can speak with the players. When we stayed together for 10 days it was very, very important for us. After we have qualified we can speak about this more though.''

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