Fabio Capello has sounded the first warning that David James’ injury problems are now so acute that he may not be able to take him to the World Cup finals next summer, leaving England with a goalkeeper crisis that could seriously undermine their hopes of success in South Africa.
Capello revealed that James now requires two days’ recovery after matches because of problems with his shoulder, a difficulty that precluded him from being selected for this month’s squad.
The 39-year-old had an operation on his shoulder during the summer but does not appear to have resolved the problem that affected him last season.
In James’ absence, not one of his understudies have has stepped up to the mark to make the position their own. Ben Foster admitted he was “lucky” to escape being red-carded by the Qatari referee on Saturday for a clear denial of a goalscoring opportunity when he brought down Nilmar in the area.
The Manchester United goalkeeper also spoke about his “weird” situation where he is first choice for England and third-choice for his club.
On James, Capello said that when it came to the World Cup final he had to take players who were fit.
Capello said: “If James is fit, he will be with us – probably. We can take him. When we choose the players they have to be fit.
“Some players are really important. We hope they will be fit at the right moment when they arrive at the World Cup. Sometimes one or two players make a difference. We spoke with David James. He needed more time after every game. He can’t train for two days after each game. We preferred that he stayed at home.”
The goalkeeper’s position has been a major problem for Capello since he took the job almost two years ago.
Foster was picked in the last World Cup qualifier against Belarus because Robert Green, who had played the previous six games, was suspended for a red card against Ukraine.
It was telling that, in James’ absence, Capello stuck with Foster despite the fact his last game for United had been on October 27 against Barnsley in the Carling Cup.
Foster accepted: “I’m not playing at United, which makes it a lot more difficult for myself. Ideally, I’d like to be playing. That’s not happening but the England boss is giving me a few chances.
"I’m really grateful for the chances and I’ve just got to show what I can do and, hopefully, that will keep me in the squad.
“It’s difficult at United with Edwin van der Sar. He’s one of the best keepers in the world. It’s as simple as that. You can’t go knocking on the manager’s door and say he is not doing his job, because he’s doing his job.
"It’s very, very disheartening. I’ve not been on the bench lately and you have to keep your head up.
“I’m third choice for Manchester United at the moment and yet I’m playing for my country. It’s a weird one. I’ll see what happens. I can’t go saying that I want to leave or anything like that, I’ll see what happens. You never know in football, do you?”