Fabio Capello's effort to rejuvenate the England squad after the World Cup debacle has been obsessive.
Danny Welbeck made his international debut last season, against Ghana, after a spurt of six goals in eight appearances for Sunderland. He failed to find the net on any other occasion for the club that he joined on loan from Manchester United but Capello had not turned to him out of desperation.
Welbeck, back at Old Trafford, has hinted at the impact he may have in the longer term by scoring five goals this season, even if they have all come at home. It is unlikely that Capello is taking him to Montenegro purely to further his football education. The hosts in Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier are known for their resilience and England require as many ways as possible to break a deadlock. If Welbeck, 20, is considered suitable for such a task it comes as recognition of his emerging maturity.
Three of Welbeck's five goals for United came in the past two outings. Welbeck turns 21 next month but club and country can hope that he has already come of age. Managers who send a player out on loan usually proffer the cliché that he will get more experience but Welbeck has genuinely made the best possible use of his spell at the Stadium of Light.
It is difficult to think of him as a footballer who once had a galling evening with the England Under-21s. Having been brought on in an away match with Greece in 2009, Stuart Pearce took him off 15 minutes from the end because he was unhappy with the degree of effort Welbeck was putting in. On Wearside, however, the striker began to grow up and build a reputation. The rite of passage involved him learning to cook, although the early results were "not up to scratch" initially.
"I can't say how much it helped me going to Sunderland," Welbeck said. "I had a really good time, everyone was welcoming. I had to go there, play in the Premier League and gain experience and get a lot more confidence. I know how to go into a game situation, how to prepare during the week and all that stuff. You have to go there with the thought in your head that it may be a stepping stone and I had to take it as a positive."
Loans sometimes turn out to be a polite sort of ejection from a club that wants to shed a player despite him being under contract. Welbeck, who has been associated with United since he was nine, did not let that fate befall him. By meeting the challenge he has grown up, and not only in the physical strength he has lately acquired.
Welbeck seems at ease now, relishing that in last week's match against Basel he had as a team-mate a person he has idolised from youth, the 37-year-old Ryan Giggs. "He might be playing when I finish as well," the striker joked. Welbeck draws also on other aspects of his Old Trafford education, which include instruction from the Dutch coach Rene Meulensteen, who has been at Old Trafford since 2001, with the exception of six unsuccessful months in Denmark as Brondby manager.
"His coaching is more based around skill," said Welbeck. "He's shown me plenty of tricks that you could do in a game. If you watched our teams, we started to produce that skill in games." There are also hardships to be borne at Old Trafford. Welbeck was loaned from United to Preston after an FA Cup defeat by Leeds at Old Trafford in January 2010. He sees such events as typical of the difficulties to be faced at leading clubs. A footballer may see scant first-team action but still be expected to retain sharpness.
It was as hard simply to be ready for top-flight football as it was to succeed there. "Sometimes," said Welbeck, "there will be a reserve game on a Wednesday but then the manager doesn't want you to get injured, so you miss games, and then you are thrown in at the deep end to play at the weekend. You can't do yourself justice. You are not fit enough, not sharp enough; that's a really big reason why I went on loan [to Sunderland]. I needed minutes in the Premier League. There are a lot of players at United and other big teams that won't really be getting the chance. Going on loan to another Premier League team or Championship allows them to make big steps."
There are further strides to be made. "You don't want to be happy with where you're at," said Welbeck. "If you think of the main ones like Lionel Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo, they score goals and they break records and they just want to keep breaking them. They don't want to stop there. You can't ever be satisfied." Capello and Sir Alex Ferguson will be heartened that he seems to mean every word.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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