DANNY Welbeck has linked up with England’s senior squad after receving a last-minute call-up.
The 20-year-old had returned to Sunderland over the weekend after being released from England U21 duty – along with Jordan Henderson – in order to concentrate on club duties following a successful, goalscoring display in the 4-0 win against Denmark U21s last Thursday night.
But in a surprise development, England boss Fabio Capello has called the on-loan Manchester United star into his senior squad.
Now, Welbeck (right) is expected to be on the bench as former team-mate Darren Bent and ex-Newcastle United striker Andy Carroll are lined up to take on a Ghana side featuring three Sunderland players.
Six senior England players have withdrawn from the squad following the successful Euro 2012 qualifier against Wales on Saturday – John Terry, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole, Aaron Lennon and Michael Dawson – a move which has attracted some serious criticism.
But releasing Lennon has created an opening for Welbeck and it means the chance to follow in Henderson’s footsteps as a young star in the making earning a senior England call-up from the Sunderland squad.
It’s a mixed blessing for Black Cats boss Steve Bruce, who had been thankful Sunderland’s international absentees had an extra 24 hours to recover before tackling Champions League-chasing Manchester City.
Bruce was hoping to include Welbeck among the list of players who would have extra rest and recuperation time but he will still have been delighted to see his young striker gain senior England recognition.
Now the Sunderland boss will be keeping his fingers crossed that FIVE, rather than four of Sunderland’s first-team regulars, come through unscathed when they represent their respective countries.
Asamoah Gyan, Sulley Muntari and John Mensah are all expected to line up for Ghana in the friendly against England at Wembley, while Simon Mignolet looks set to continue in the Belgium side for their Euro 2012 qualifier with Azerbaijan after making his senior bow on Friday night.
The comfort for Bruce is that Sunderland’s weekend trip to Manchester City has been moved to Sunday for live television coverage, which at least gives his returning players a chance to recover properly.
Bruce told the Echo: “It’s always a concern when players go away with their countries – especially with our luck on injuries at the moment.
“As a manager, your biggest worry when there is an international break is that all your players come back fit.
“Hopefully, they will all come back injury free.
“Make no mistake though, fit or not, I think the Ghanaians will return extremely tired after the schedule they have had.”
“They had a training camp in Kenya last week, played against Congo on Sunday and then flew straight to England for tonight’s game.
“But from our point of view, at least the Man City game is on the Sunday and that extra 24 hours time to prepare will help us enormously.”
Mensah was the only one of Sunderland’s Ghanaian trio who started against Congo with Muntari coming off the bench to seal the 3-0 win.
But all three could start tonight with Gyan back from a three-match suspension to potentially go head-to-head against former Sunderland strike partner Darren Bent.
Bruce added: “Our Ghana lads have been talking about it for weeks.
“They will all be desperate to play because it’s a glamour game.
“It will be an incredible atmosphere. From what I hear, there will be about 30,000 Ghana fans there, which is amazing.
“And I’m sure some Sunderland fans will want Ghana to beat England!”
Sunderland’s two South Americans, Cristian Riveros and Marcos Angeleri, are also on international duty tonight although neither is expected to feature against City.
Riveros is set to start for Paraguay in their friendly against the USA in Nashville, Tennessee, while right-back Angeleri is in the Argentina squad to face Costa Rica in San Jose.