Gareth Barry last night saw his chances of being in the starting line-up for England improve significantly when Wayne Bridge pulled out with a thigh injury.
Barry has played in midfield and defence for Aston Villa this season and seems set to win his ninth cap when England play Spain in a friendly international at Old Trafford tomorrow night.
Bridge, the Chelsea left-back, was expected to occupy that position in the absence of Ashley Cole but Barry is likely to benefit from the misfortune that has dogged the England camp.
Steve McClaren, the England head coach, has also suffered the loss of Chris Kirkland, Andrew Johnson, Joe Cole, Owen Hargreaves, and, probably, Wayne Rooney.
Barry won his first England cap under Kevin Keegan in 2000 and his most recent under Sven-Goran Eriksson in 2003. The Villa player has been in fine form under Martin O'Neill this season.
Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard, the acting captain, has called on England to send out a message of intent ahead of the vital European Championship qualifier with Israel next month in tomorrow night’s match.
England’s hopes of qualifying for the 2008 finals, to be held in Austria and Switzerland, are in the balance after the team’s dismal goalless home draw with Macedonia and the 2-0 defeat in Croatia.
McClaren’s side partially regained their pride with the draw against Holland in Amsterdam three months ago.
But Gerrard concedes England need maximum points from the qualifiers against Israel in Tel Aviv on March 25 and against Andorra in Barcelona four days later.
He stressed the need to build confidence in the match against Spain.
The Liverpool midfielder, who will lead the side as John Terry is unlikely to start after his recent injury problems, said: "We’ve got to show the fans, the manager and everyone in the country that we really want to top this Euro group.
"We’ve got a really good challenge ahead because some of the past results in the qualifying group have not been what we would have liked.
"But the Spain game is good preparation for them. If we can get a good win, and a decent performance on Wednesday night, it will be good for confidence going into those qualifiers next month.
"We put in a pretty decent performance against Holland in the last friendly match but we are looking to improve on that.
"Is Israel a must-win game? I think every game for England is ‘must-win’ but, with the group as it is, the next qualifiers coming up are must-win games."
Gerrard says he has double reason for wanting England to win tomorrow — to avenge a defeat by an infinitely superior Spain in Madrid in November 2004 and to avoid criticism from his Liverpool team-mates Xabi Alonso and Pepe Reina.
Gerrard, who was unavailable for that match, said: "Spain have got fantastic footballers, that’s for sure. In the last game England played against them, Spain gave us a lesson in how to play football.
"They were very good technically that night and those memories are still with the players who played. It wasn’t nice to watch back home and hopefully we can put in a lot better performance.
"If you give people like Alonso and Fabregas time on the ball you will be hurt.
"We need to get really close to them and give them the English style of football and try to rough them up a bit.
"I’ve got club team-mates I’m going to be coming up against so I don’t want to be going back into work with Liverpool on Thursday morning having been beaten by them."