Liverpool winger joins Nick Powell and Andros Townsend as first-timers in Pearce's squad
Raheem Sterling, Andros Townsend and Nick Powell have all received their first call-ups for England Under-21s.
Stuart Pearce has named a 26-man squad for his team’s Euro 2013 play-off double header against Serbia
next week as the young Lions look to secure qualification to their fourth successive Finals tournament.
17-year-old Sterling, who has been impressive in eight appearances on the wing for Liverpool this season, will join Pearce’s men ahead of their first leg in Norwich on Friday 12 October
The ex-QPR youngster, who has appeared for England at U16s, U17s and U19s level, was also drafted into Roy Hodgson’s senior squad last month before the 2014 World Cup Qualifier with Ukraine
A goal in four club appearances this season for Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Townsend has earned him a chance at Under-21 level, while Manchester United’s Nick Powell makes his step up after figuring throughout England’s younger age-groups.
Powell burst onto the scene for United this season, after his move from Crewe Alexandra in the summer, scoring in his Premier League debut against Wigan Athletic last month.
“For Raheem, to have an insight into the senior team, is fantastic,” said Pearce. “He’s been in our development squads and has done extremely well for Liverpool, and credit to Brendan [Rodgers] who has given him his chance. We are pleased to have him.
“Andros Townsend has also done well and has been around Tottenham’s first team squad consistently this year. Nick Powell got his move from Crewe, to a massive club at United, and has made his first team bow. He has a really bright future. I’m really looking forward to bringing them into the squad to give us a lift. They couldn’t come in at a more crucial time.
“Roy [Hodgson] and I have had a really good conversation in relation to my squad, last night being the last time we spoke, and he is more than aware of the Under-21s key players.
"What’s certain is the players are at the centre of the decisions both Roy and I make.”
Another of Liverpool’s four representatives in the squad is Andre Wisdom, who last featured for Pearce’s men in September 2011. The Reds defender made his first team debut a fortnight ago, scoring in their Europa League win over Young Boys Bern.
There are also returns for three very influential players. Manchester City’s Jack Rodwell and Nottingham Forest’s Henri Lansbury are back in the squad following injury.
Meanwhile Birmingham City keeper Jack Butland comes in after recent involvement in the Senior squad, as well as Team GB at London 2012.
“We have to put as strong a squad as possible out,” continued Pearce “If you don’t do that at this stage of the competition, then you can make life very difficult for yourself.
“In the side for our play-off against Romania two years ago we had nine players who have all gone on to play for the senior team.”
Pearce last came up against Serbia at Euro 2007 in Holland, and having assessed their recent form in the competition is expecting a very difficult double-header.
“No matter who you face at this stage of the competition, it’s going to be really tough,” he admitted. “There are 14 nations left in qualifying all going for just seven slots, alongside hosts Israel, at the Finals.
“Serbia, like us, were unbeaten on their way to winning their group, so that illustrates just how difficult it is to qualify for this tournament.
“They have some very good players with around seven of them stepping up into the senior set-up during this campaign. We last played them in 2007, winning 2-0, but they have a terrific record in this competition.
“The Serbians have reached the Final or semi-final stage three times in the last ten years and, after not qualifying last time around, they’ll be keen to get to Israel.”
He added: “We are under no illusion how tough these two games will be for us, so we need to be at our very best.
“We’re also hoping the fans can get behind the team as they have in our two recent visits to Carrow Road.
“Both times we have played in front of full stadiums here and the players really feed off the atmosphere that is generated.”
England Under-21s play their important home leg of the Euro 2013 play-off in Norwich on Friday 12 October (6pm KO). Tickets are available for just £10 adults and £5 for concessions online here
The second leg takes place on Tuesday 16 October (5pm KO BST/6pm Local) in Krusevac, Serbia.
Ben Amos (Hull City - loan from Manchester United), Jack Butland (Birmingham City), Declan Rudd (Norwich City), Jason Steele (Middlesbrough)
Ryan Bennett (Norwich City), Steven Caulker (Tottenham Hotspur), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton), Craig Dawson (West Bromwich Albion), Tom Lees (Leeds United), Jack Rodwell (Manchester City), Danny Rose (Sunderland - loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Adam Smith (Tottenham Hotspur), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool)
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Tom Ince (Blackpool), Henri Lansbury (Nottingham Forest), Jason Lowe (Blackburn Rovers), Josh McEachran (Middlesbrough - loan from Chelsea), Nick Powell (Manchester United), Jonjo Shelvey (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
Nathan Delfouneso (Blackpool - loan from Aston Villa), Marvin Sordell (Bolton Wanderers), Andros Townsend (Tottenham Hotspur), Connor Wickham (Sunderland).