Manchester City captain Kolo Toure is keen to guide Micah Richards back to top form, and insists the young right-back can be one of the best defenders in England.
A shoulder injury kept Richards out of Wednesday night's Carling Cup win over Fulham but his place may have been under threat anyway following a below-par performance against Manchester United last weekend.
Once good enough to become England's youngest defender when he was elevated to senior honours by Steve McClaren, Richards has so far failed to impress Fabio Capello, who is dubious about the 21-year-old's positional sense.
Glen Johnson has regularly been preferred by the England boss at right-back, and Richards' failure to pick up Michael Owen for the striker's stoppage-time winner at Old Trafford last weekend is unlikely to have helped the defender's claim for an England starting berth. But City captain Toure believes the youngster should not be made a scapegoat for the Manchester derby defeat.
"It wasn't just Micah,'' the former Arsenal star said. "As a team we let in a few easy goals, so we all need to take the blame. "Micah is a young player who is learning. When I was 21 I made a lot of mistakes as well.''
Richards position as first-choice right-back at City has been cast into doubt, with Pablo Zabaleta performing admirably in the midweek victory over Fulham. But Toure, who scored the winner against the Cottagers, believes he can help Richards regain his confidence and make the young defender a force to be reckoned with.
"It is really important to me that I help him get back,'' Toure said. "Micah is a great player and one day will be one of the very best defenders in England. He is a great lad, who listens to everything you say."