Lescott needs to play regularly
Joleon Lescott admits his World Cup dreams are likely to hinge on whether he is playing regular first-team football next season.
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15. Joleon Lescott
Lescott heads in to England's World Cup qualifier against Montenegro on the back of what has been a rollercoaster 18 months for the Manchester City centre-back.
Having won over the plaudits who questioned his £24million price tag, Lescott was part of City's title-winning side last year and he then went on to gain acclaim with England, playing every minute of the Three Lions' Euro 2012 campaign.
The former Wolves and Everton centre-back has suffered something of a dip since then, however. Lescott dropped down the pecking order at the Etihad Stadium following the arrival of Matija Nastasic, and as a result he did not feature in the international friendlies against Sweden and Brazil.
An injury crisis at the back allowed Lescott a way back in to the side last week, however, and the 30-year-old is now likely to be one of the first names on Roy Hodgson's team sheet for Tuesday's crunch qualifier in Podgorica.
The pride at his recall - he ended Friday's 8-0 win over San Marino as captain - is tempered by the knowledge that his chances of representing the Three Lions in Rio are being lessened by his lack of regular game-time.
Lescott said: "If you'd asked me last year what my chances were of making the World Cup squad then I'd have said: 'yeah, pretty good.' But you don't know.
"If I can play more regularly at club level then I think I'll be there.
"Towards the end of the season, I'll address that. But for now, I'm fully focused on England and what England need to do."
Hodgson did not shirk around the issue when he called Lescott to inform him he was not in his squad for the latest double-header.
He was not playing enough for his club, the 65-year-old said.
But, to Lescott's credit, he did not sulk. Instead, just 48 hours after watching City lose to his old team Everton from the bench, Lescott was making plans to head to Carrington to train on his own while his team-mates rested.
City's kitwoman, used to seeing Lescott turn up on his day off, had even laid Lescott's training gear out for him, but she had to put it away after hearing of the defender's call-up after injuries to Phil Jagielka, Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Cahill.
He said: "I was going in on Monday but I had to cancel that because I knew I was training on the Tuesday (with England).
"I always tend to go in on my days off.
"I don't want to give anyone the excuse or justify the reason that I have not been playing. I want to give myself the best opportunity."
Lescott also had to ditch plans for a romantic city break with his wife Debbie after hearing of his late call-up to the squad.
"We had been given some time off (by City) and I was going away with my wife to Paris for a couple of days, but she told me we wouldn't be able to go because she thought I was going to get called up," Lescott added.
"I said, 'I hope so' and on Sunday night she was right. I had no inkling, but she called it right. I've have to get her to pick the lottery numbers next week!"
Montenegro, who are two points ahead of England at the top of Group H, are likely to see Lescott as a weak link in the Three Lions' armour given that he has only completed 10 Barclays Premier League games this season.
The former Everton man's last outing at club level was in a 5-0 win over Championship side Barnsley in the FA Cup while he barely had to make a tackle in the demolition of part-time minnows San Marino.
Feared Serie A duo Stevan Jovetic and Mirko Vucinic boast 23 goals between them this season for club and country, but Lescott is sure that he, and his 22-year-old defensive partner Chris Smalling, will be able to handle the pressure in the Montenegrin capital on Tuesday night.
"I haven't been playing as much as I'd like of course but I have confidence in my own ability," Lescott said.
"I haven't been injured because I haven't been playing and I feel sharp enough to adapt to anything they offer."