Veteran Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe earned a first England call-up in four years on Thursday for the forthcoming friendly against Germany and World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.
Defoe, 34, has been drafted in after captain Wayne Rooney, Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane and Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge were ruled out by injury.
He won the last of his 55 caps in November 2013, but has continued to score regularly for Sunderland, netting 14 times in the Premier League this season.
“I didn’t want to just look at his age and think he’s finished with England,” England manager Gareth Southgate told reporters at the St George’s Park football centre in Burton-on-Trent, central England.
“I think you get young players with a point to prove and older players with a point to prove.
“Year after year he’s phenomenal, but this year in particular, in a team that aren’t creating as many chances as other teams, his strike rate is outstanding.”
Southgate’s 26-man squad included first call-ups for Southampton pair Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse, both of whom played under him at under-21 level.
“We are definitely nodding towards the future with some of the decisions we are making,” Southgate said.
There was also a surprise return for West Bromwich Albion midfielder Jake Livermore, who won his sole England cap in 2012.
Manchester United trio Phil Jones, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford earned recalls, but there was no place in the squad for Arsenal forward Theo Walcott.
Tottenham left-back Danny Rose, Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson and Leicester City midfielder Danny Drinkwater also missed out through injury.
Explaining the omission of Rooney, who is carrying a knee injury, Southgate said: “I’ve talked with Wayne. I think there’s a chance he’s fit for the weekend (for Manchester United).
“But also the injury coupled with the fact he’s not really had a lot of game-time recently has sort of determined my decision on that one.”
England tackle Germany in Dortmund on Wednesday in Southgate’s first game since he was appointed manager on a permanent basis.
He had previously taken charge of four games as a caretaker manager following the dismissal of Sam Allardyce, who was brought down by a newspaper sting.
England then host Lithuania at Wembley on March 26 as they look to cement their place at the top of UEFA World Cup qualifying Group F.
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Southampton), Joe Hart (Torino/ITA, on loan from Manchester City), Tom Heaton (Burnley)
Defenders: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Michael Keane (Burnley), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur)
Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Michail Antonio (West Ham United), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Jake Livermore (West Bromwich Albion), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Nathan Redmond (Southampton), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
Forwards: Jermain Defoe (Sunderland), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)