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About time too! :)


David James and Nick Barmby have been named in the England squad for the friendly matches with Brazil, Ukraine and Malta.

James, who has been in commanding form this season for Aston Villa, has played just once for England, keeping a clean sheet in the 2-0 friendly victory over Mexico in March 1997.

Barmby returns to the England fold after an absence of over three-and-a-half years, when the Everton midfielder scored in the 3-0 victory over Moldova in a World Cup qualifier.

Manager Kevin Keegan has also given Liverpool's Robbie Fowler extra time to prove his fitness for Euro 2000, despite having started just eight matches this season.

The England boss has named a 28-man squad for the three friendlies, which will be reduced to 22 for the European Championships in Holland and Belgium. Graeme Le Saux, Trevor Sinclair, Steve Guppy, Ian Walker and Steve Froggatt have all been omitted, ending any chance of playing in Euro 2000.

Keegan revealed that Under-21 stars Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry could still receive a call-up if any of the squad pick up injuries before the championships.

He said: "One of the reasons it's a squad of 28 is four Arsenal players are playing in the UEFA Cup final, three players in the FA Cup final, and Richard Wright involved in at least one play-off game. Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard could get a call-up if we do have injuries.”

Keegan thanked the persistence of Everton chairman Bill Kenwright for the inclusion of Nick Barmby. He added: "He's been picked for the form he's in, it's as simple as that. His form throughout the season has been very consistent. I have been to watch him three times in the last six weeks - at the request of his chairman Mr Kenwright - and his form has been very good.

"He can play left on the side and he has played there every time I've watched him play for Everton. He has a terrific football brain. I think in the first six months at Everton he found it difficult, but now he's really blossoming and he can play in two or three positions.”

One of the four goalkeepers will be dropped for the final 22-man squad and Keegan admitted he was still not sure which it would be. He added: “I wanted to have a good look at him. He deserves this opportunity. He says he's learnt from mistakes he's made in the past.

“He's got a chance (of making the final 22) but obviously I can only take three keepers so one has to drop out of there. If there was an injury, say to David Seaman, then he (James) could perhaps come in because of his experience of playing in the Premiership."

"I've got six forwards and one has to go which is tough because they all deserve to go. Two also have to go from midfield and two from defence."

Youngsters Richard Wright, Steven Gerrard, Kieron Dyer, Rio Ferdinand and Emile Heskey have all been named in the squad for the friendlies after being left out of Howard Wilkinson’s England Under-21 team.

England face Brazil at Wembley on May 27, with Ukraine travelling to the Twin Towers four days later, a day before Keegan has to name his final squad for Euro 2000.

Full England squad for the friendlies against Brazil, Ukraine and Malta

Seaman (Arsenal)
Martyn (Leeds)
Wright (Ipswich)
James (Aston Villa)

P Neville (Man Utd)
G Neville (Man Utd)
Ferdinand (West Ham)
Campbell (Tottenham)
Adams (Arsenal)
Keown (Arsenal)
Southgate (Aston Villa)

Beckham (Man Utd)
Wise (Chelsea)
Ince (Middlesbrough)
Redknapp (Liverpool)
Dyer (Newcastle)
Barmby (Everton)
Parlour (Arsenal)
Scholes (Man Utd)
Wilcox (Leeds)
Gerrard (Liverpool)
McManaman (Real Madrid)

Shearer (Newcastle)
Owen (Liverpool)
Cole (Man Utd)
Heskey (Liverpool)
Phillips (Sunderland)
Fowler (Liverpool)
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