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Football: Everton stars can turn into Capello gems; England should take a chance on trio.


INTERNATIONAL football is unlikely to commandeer too much attention this summer but a couple of fixtures may be of huge importance to a couple of Everton players.

Unless Luis Aragones performs an amazing about turn and calls Mikel Arteta into Spain's squad for Euro 2008, Everton interest in the showpiece tournament will be reliant on Manuel Fernandes and Nuno Valente featuring for Portugal.

Before things get underway in Austria and Switzerland, though, Fabio Capello has another couple of opportunities to run the rule over his England squad and, in all likelihood, he will experiment once again against the USA and Trinidad & Tobago.

As he tries to separate the wheat from the chaff and get England firing on all cylinders for the start of the 2010 World Cup campaign, Capello has made it clear that there is plenty of time forwould-be candidates to stake a claim.

The incentive is there, then, for Phil Jagielka and Leon Osman to give the Italian food for thought and end what have been extremely encouraging seasons on a high by winning inclusion for those two games.

While another Blue, Joleon Lescott, has progressed so much that it now seems as if he is a fixture in Capello's plans, there is nothing to say that Jagielka - who has been the model of consistency this season - cannot join him.

Itwas at this time last year that Jagielka had come to Steve Mc Claren's attentions and he was on the verge of being selected for 'B' team duty in a friendly against Albania.

Who knows? Had Mc Claren still been in charge, he may well have made the step up already.

Though he endured a slow start to his career at Goodison Park, he refused to be overawed and since getting into the team at Christmas, Jagielka has vindicated David Moyes' claim that Everton got "one of the best deals around" last July.

Such has been the form Jagielka has shown, his manager has felt compelled to champion his cause on a number of occasions, most recently when he said Jagielka "deserved every plaudit" that came his way.

Only time will tell if Capello feels the same way but there is no reason why the indefatigable Jagielka cannot end up in England's 22; especially as he can fill a number of gaps.

Central defence, though, is where he will thrive in the long-run and FOOwhile John Terry and Rio Ferdinand are first choice, why can't Lescott and Jagielka wait in the wings as their understudies?

For all his talent, Jonathon Wood gate's fitness issues are always going to be a problem, while Ledley King is another who appears to have perennial injury problems.

The same cannot be said of either Jagielka or Lescott - who makes his 92nd consecutive appearance for Everton against Aston Villa tomorrow - and they have both benefited from playing in Europe this season.

Similar sentiments apply to Osman.

True, the task he faces to catch Capello's eye is more difficult as there is surfeit of midfielders but, when you think of some of the players who have been afforded a chance over the years, surely he deserves an opportunity?

Here is a player who never fails to give anything other than his best and is still open to improvement.

So with nothing riding on the outcome of those forthcoming friendlies, Capello may well give Everton's rapid improvers a shot at the big time


ROCK SOLID: England's Joleon Lescott in action with France's Florent Malouda
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 26, 2008
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