Aaron Lennon looks set to be recalled for England’s World Cup qualifier against Croatia when a victory would secure qualification for South Africa 2010.
The speedy winger impressed national manager Fabio Capello in the early weeks of the season, having helped Tottenham win its first four matches of the Premier League.
Lennon’s second goal of the season for Spurs clinched a 2-1 victory over Birmingham on Saturday, a day before Capello is due to announce his squad for the September 9 qualifier against Croatia. England also meet Slovenia in a friendly next Saturday.
“When a player is fit and in good form I put him in the squad,” Capello said at a media round-table ahead of the squad announcement. “Always the quick players are really important. But not only speed, because you have to be good technically.
“Lennon can play one-to-one and is very dangerous because he’s quick. He can shoot left, he can shoot right - he scored a goal against West Ham.”
The 22-year-old Lennon last played for England in the victories over Slovakia in March and Ukraine in April, ending a two-year exile from the team.
He would occupy the right wing berth freed up by the injury to Arsenal’s Theo Walcott, whose pace and hat trick terrorized Croatia in a 4-1 victory last September.
“He needs to understand his potential and have confidence in it,” Capello said. “He has to improve the confidence.”
Lennon’s Tottenham teammate Jermain Defoe has also forced his way into Capello’s plans by scoring six goals for club and country in four matches this month.
“Physically he is in a good moment,” Capello said. “It is not just the goals, he is fast and has movement without the ball. He presses a lot. He is in a really good moment.”
Two of Defoe’s goals came in England’s friendly against the Netherlands this month to recover a 2-2 draw.
Capello has no qualms about fielding a diminutive forward line of Defoe and Wayne Rooney.
“It’s not important to be tall or small, it’s important the movement you do,” Capello said. “When you have the possibility to score goals you have to be dangerous and also you must help the team when they need to win back the ball. This is a really important thing - I choose the players also for this. You have to participate in the play in every moment.”
While Michael Owen is again in the preliminary squad, Manchester United’s new striker is not set to make the cut until he starts scoring more often, having hit the net just once competitively since joining the English champion.
“He has not played a lot of games and he has to understand the style of United and integrate with the other players,” Capello said. “The players need to play. Full stop. And score.”
England can make it eight wins out of eight in Group 6 by beating Croatia at Wembley. Securing World Cup qualification in that match would help to banish memories of when Slaven Bilic’s side’s won in London in November 2007 to deny England a place at the 2008 European Championship.
“We have improved a lot in confidence because now we play like a team and we can play against every country and we can beat them - every team,” said Capello, who replaced Steve McClaren after that failed qualification campaign. “They have a belief now.”
David Beckham will be included in Sunday’s squad and Capello sees the 34-year-old midfielder’s recent sending off for the Los Angeles Galaxy as evidence of his enduring commitment to football.
“He is always with us and that is important,” Capello said. “He’s played well.”
What Capello is looking to work on, though, in his 10 days with the squad from Monday is eradicating the “silly mistakes” that saw England go 2-0 down to the Dutch before hitting back.
“We have time to work with the back four and improve also the movement when we have to defend,” the Italian manager said. “The priority is to recover the sprit, the group, everything.”