|Paul Scholes (AFP photo)|
LONDON, May 11 (AFP) – Paul Scholes's decision to turn down the chance of a World Cup recall for England may have secured Joe Cole's seat on the plane to South Africa.
The Chelsea midfielder had been widely tipped to be one of the most high-profile absentees from Fabio Capello's squad for South Africa after a season marred by injury, a dip in form and confidence and a lack of first team starts for his club under Carlo Ancelotti.
There had even been speculation that Cole, who had not featured in an England squad since the 4-1 win over Croatia in Zagreb in September 2008, could miss out on the provisional 30-man squad Capello unveiled on Tuesday.
Those suggestions however proved to be sharply at odds with the ringing endorsement of the 29-year-old's qualities delivered by Capello after he unveiled his squad.
"Joe Cole played with us before his injury and every time I was impressed," Capello said.
"I followed him when he started to play again after the injury. He did not play so well but in the last two months he was getting better and better. Sometimes he has not played because Carlo picked other players but always when he played he was good, and I think he is really fit now."
Capello also suggested that Cole's willingness to embrace the role of impact substitute may count in his favour when he whittles his selection down to a final squad of 23 on June 1, by which time England will have been on a training camp in the Austrian Alps and played warm-up matches against Mexico and Japan.
"Whenever he played for me he was always ready, whether it was to play half an hour or with the first XI," Capello added. "With me he always played really well."
The cull that takes place on June 1 will be more brutal among defenders and midfielders, with Capello having named only five strikers in his initial selection.
Darren Bent, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Emile Heskey could all end up joining Wayne Rooney on the plane to South Africa, although Capello also underlined that his attacking options were not limited to that quintet.
"Steve Gerrard can also play like a number ten," he said. "That is another chance that I've got."
While Capello failed with a bid to persuade Scholes to join his squad, he did succeed in convincing Jamie Carragher to end his self-imposed exile from international football.
The head coach insisted he had issued no promises but Carragher looks certain to go to South Africa as cover for Glen Johnson at right-back as well as for a selection of central defenders that looks set to include Ledley King, who has defied a chronic knee condition to re-establish himself as one of the most admired centrebacks in the Premier League.
Carragher retired from England duty in 2007 after growing disillusioned - some would say sulky - over his lack of first-team chances during the reigns of Sven Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren.
Capello's overtures brought a change of heart but the Italian's diplomatic touch was found wanting in the case of Scholes, who stopped playing for England six years ago but has continued to thrive for Manchester United.
"We have been monitoring him," Capello admitted. "In the second part of the season, he played very well. I tried to convince him to come back to England but he said no. He prefers to stay with the family."
Capello has recalled King even though the Tottenham centre-back has never played for England under the Italian, who was initially sceptical about the worth of a player restricted to non-impact training between matches.
"We spoke with him and he told us that this season he has not had big problems with his knees, but some problems with the muscles (in his legs)," Capello explained.
King and Carragher's inclusion in the squad reflects concern over whether Rio Ferdinand, who started just 12 Premier League matches for Manchester United over the last season, will last the entire tournament.
Capello also included Manchester City midfielder Gareth Barry, currently sidelined by an ankle ligament injury. A May 24 medical check will decide whether Barry, an England regular since Capello took over at the start of 2008, he makes the final squad.
Despite all the fitness issues, Capello was relieved that his squad has been left relatively unscathed by their club seasons, and particularly with assurances from Sir Alex Ferguson that Rooney will quickly shake off the groin strain he suffered in Manchester United's season-ending win over Stoke on Saturday.