The battle for the goalkeeper's jersey at West Bromwich Albion has intensified. Chris Kirkland has been told he may have displace understudy Tomasz Kuszczak and, with both players vying to wear the No 1 jersey of their respective national sides, the competition is becoming fierce.
Kirkland, Albion's first choice, is itching to recover from bruised kidneys to keep himself in the frame to be one of England's three keepers at the World Cup finals in Germany next summer.
Kuszczak is chasing a place in the Poland side - which has also qualified for the finals - and is unlikely to relinquish the Baggies jersey willingly,
Kuszczak made his name as Albion's No 1 when he came in to replace Russell Hoult in such amazing style to earn Albion the point at Old Trafford last May. It helped keep them in the Premiership.
He has again impressed as Kirkland's deputy in the last three games.
The door to the Polish squad has been thrown open further with Liverpool's European Cup-winning keeper Jerzy Dudek out of the team at Anfield.
While Dudek desperately looks for a move to keep himself matchfit for the summer, twice-capped Kuszczak senses his opportunity to make a late bid.
When Kirkland is fit, Albion manager Bryan Robson faces a selection decision that could determine which of the two keepers goes to the World Cup finals.
But, while appreciative of Kirkland's haste to become fit, Albion's assistant manager Nigel Pearson is insistent that the player should do nothing that might endanger his long-term health.
"It's going to be another couple of weeks before we have to face that," Pearson said, "but it's vitally important that Chris gets this injury sorted out first as it could have been a serious problem.
"When he first did it, we thought it was his ribs, but bruising to the kidneys can be very dangerous if you ignore it. And there's a bigger risk with keepers, given the way they throw themselves around.
"There's no short cuts. This is something he's going to have to be patient with.
"I'm very aware of how keen he is to put the tag of being injuryprone behind him. And the only way to stop people asking questions is by having a long run which I'm sure he'll do over the next couple of years.
"The injuries he had before were serious ones but, since he's been with us, he's shown no sign of any problem with his back.
"He's got a lot of qualities as a keeper. He's got himself back into the England frame and that's given him short-term and long-term goals to concentrate on."
Kirkland, it seems, must get past Kuszczak before he can attempt to oust either Paul Robinson, David James or Robert Green in Germany.
"Tomasz has done very well," Pearson said. "And that's what we want, a bit of competition.
"For him as well it could be quite a big year. He wants to get back in the frame for the international setup and that's great for us because then we've got another player even more focused on performing well.
"He's improved a lot and there is possibly room for even more improvement, which is great for us.
"Anything can happen. And don't take Russell Hoult out of the equation. He's done very well out on loan at Forest and is still a quality keeper."
The one player Albion have who looks certain to figure at this year's World Cup finals is Japanese midfielder Inamoto. After a year waiting in the wings while being packed out on loan to Cardiff, Inamoto's patience has not gone unnoticed by Pearson who said: "He's had one or two technical points he has needed to improve on but Ina's another player with a big year ahead of him who has something to aim for. He deserves to keep his shirt."
Meanwhile, Zoltan Gera, the most high-profile of Albion's international players not going to the World Cup, may not be ready to return to the domestic side on Saturday after his five-match absence.
Pearson says it is too soon to decide whether he will play against fellow strugglers Everton.
"He came on quite a lot last week," Pearson said. "And I know there's been speculation about whether he'd be available for Everton. It would be great if he was but he's a got lot of training to catch up on and we'll see how he does this week."