It is a sign of how far Aston Villa's Gareth Barry has come this season to see that his name was being bandied around as a genuine candidate for the England captaincy.
The midfielder is part of Fabio Capello's squad to play France tonight but was in contention to lead the side given the way the Italian has insisted that he will keep rotating the role for friendlies and until a permanent appoint-ment is made.
Rio Ferdinand was named as the latest recipient of the nomadic England captain's armband instead of the much-fancied John Terry.
Barry said: "It was a big surprise and the lads had a bit of a laugh and a joke about it. Other than that, I'm not too bothered.
"It was just a bit of banter. You read something in the newspaper that no-one is expecting to be in there. It was bound to be a bit of a surprise and I suppose it is a bit of a compliment even to be mentioned.
"Everybody's still looking to impress and I'm no different. Anybody asked to captain their country wouldn't turn it down."
Barry made it into the squad for a game that has been perceived by many managers as a waste of time and coming at an absurd juncture of the season given the importance and regularity of fixtures. It will not affect the Villa captain. He said: "Playing for England is never really a hindrance.
"I'll go away and concentrate on that then come back and start thinking about Manchester United on Thursday morning because the team needs to pick itself up.
"I'm sure the manager will be thinking hard about that over the next couple of days."
The form of Scott Carson, whose performances have been poor recently, has been more of a concern to Martin O'Neill than the run of 11 games that has seen Gabriel Agbonlahor fail to score. The manager urged his team to register more clean sheets yesterday but hinted that everything was fine in an attacking sense.
A run of 17 games without a clean sheet has severely dented Villa's hopes of clinching the remaining Uefa Cup place.
"I think we should be able to defend better," said O'Neill. "We have scored goals which sometimes overlooks the fact we haven't kept clean sheets. I didn't need to be told we hadn't kept one for a long time. I was well aware of it - and it is important."
O'Neill urged his side to take a leaf out of their next opponents' book. He added: "The big time this season for Manchester United was the seven 1-0 wins. To me, that was massive.
"If United, who are attacking all the time, can keep clean sheets, it is up to us to try and keep one or two more than we have been doing.
"It could be crucial in the next few weeks. "If you said to me we will win 5-4, I would take it every week because I am sure it would be a decent game.
"But we are not - so we have to get back to keeping clean sheets."
Given the stolid sequence that has blighted their strike duo, there is little chance of Villa appearing in a nine-goal thriller.
Agbonlahor has not scored in his last 11 and John Carew has failed to the hit the net since his hat-trick against Newcastle five weeks ago. Despite those statistics, the numbers do not make particularly damning reading for O'Neill.
"It's not that important for me that our front two fire," he said. "With the best will in the world, Gabby missed a chance at Portsmouth, but that wasn't a worry.
"All centre-forwards concern themselves about goals, but for me it's not a concern. Listen, we'd rather Gabby were back among the goals - and the same applies for John.
"The point is we have scored goals this season and other people have contributed."