FIFA scuppers Samuel

The Villa defender, who represented England at Under-18 and U21 level, had hoped to win his first cap next week when the Caribbean side face Bahrain in a World Cup play-off, but FIFA have told him he is too old to switch allegiances. "The player was born on 29 March 1981," barked FIFA legal director Heinz Tannler. "A player may only request changing association up to his 21st birthday. For this reason, the 24-year-old Samuel is not entitled to this decision any more."

It means Samuel is now only eligible to represent England and with the left-back playing more like Minder's George Cole this season than Ashley Cole, he could face a fruitless wait. The news will come as some relief to the club, however, who had earlier revealed their chagrin at the potential loss of the youngster.