Newcastle United and England legend Alan Shearer believes Manchester City defender Micah Richards can consider himself very unlucky not to be involved in the England squad to face Spain and Sweden.
The Eastlands right-back has been a revelation for Roberto Mancini's Premier League leaders, and Shearer, who netted 30 goals in 63 games for England, concedes Richards deserved his opportunity to play the world champions at Wembley this Saturday.
Richards became England's youngest ever defender when he made his debut against Holland on 15 November 2006, beating the record previously held by Rio Ferdinand, but the convening years has seen him add just 11 more caps.
Although Shearer acknowledges Richards endured an underwhelming spell, not helped by the managerial upheaval at Manchester City, the former striker believes the 23-year-old is finally living up to his early promise.
The defender was man-of-the-match during the 6-1 victory over Manchester United but Fabio Capello overlooked the towering fullback in favour of Tottenham's Kyle Walker and Liverpool's Glen Johnson. The Match of the Day pundit believes Richards is unlucky but urged the player to maintain his form for City.
"It wouldn't be an England game without there being some debate about who Capello has wrongly left out and this time it seems that Manchester City's Micah Richards is seen as the surprise omission." Shearer told the BBC.
"Capello appears to prefer Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker, who are both excellent players, but personally I hope Richards gets an opportunity to impress somewhere along the line.
"It won't be against Spain or Sweden but there will be other games where, if he keeps playing as well as he has been for City, then Capello cannot leave him out.
"When Richards first appeared on the scene as a teenager he was seen as the next big thing but then he struggled a bit and went backwards for a while. Now, he seems to be right on song again."
In Thursday's press conference, England goalkeeper Joe Hart echoed Shearer's sentiments by suggesting his club colleague was unfortunate not to be involved. The Manchester City number one believes Richards has been "fantastic" but suggests players like Kyle Walker have also merit their opportunity.
"Yeah, but it's not up to me to pick the squad," Hart told Sky Sports News when asked if he was surprised by Richards' exclusion. "If it was my friends from school he would be playing it, but it's not.
"Micah's been absolutely fantastic, I think he's given everything, I'm really proud of how he's done for Manchester City, captained us against QPR, it's just unfortunate he's not in this squad.
"But I'm sure he won't take it to heart, he'll just keep on playing well, like he is, and pushing to be in that squad."