Pearce names his 23 for Empoli
Wednesday, 02 February, 2011
Three new names make Pearce's Under-21s list for Italy friendly.
Three new names have been included in Stuart Pearce’s England Under-21s squad with the chance to impress against Italy in their first fixture of 2011 next week, as preparations for this summer’s European Championship Finals take shape.
Burnley forward Jay Rodriguez will be joined by Southampton winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Middlesbrough defender Joe Bennett in a 23-man squad bound for Empoli in Tuscany on Tuesday 8 February (2pm GMT) for a game which will also be featured live on TheFA.com.
“We’re missing a number of players through injury, but it will give me a chance to look at a few new players,” Pearce told TheFA.com.
“Rodriguez has been playing well for Burnley and deserves an opportunity with the Under-21s, likewise Joe Bennett at Middlesbrough has previously played for the U19s and his performances for Tony Mowbray have been impressive.
“I also saw Southampton play Manchester United in The FA Cup on Saturday and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is showing a lot of promise so we thought we’d bring him into the squad too.”
Re-joining the set-up are London-based defenders Kieran Gibbs and James Tomkins, whilst Jordan Henderson is recalled to the Under-21s after making his bow for the England senior team late last year.
The squad Pearce will take to Italy remains a strong one, despite missing the likes of Jack Wilshere and the injured Danny Welbeck, Danny Rose, Michael Mancienne, Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones.
“We’re now looking ahead to the tournament in Denmark and this game, and the ones coming up in March, will give players the chance to try and cement their place in the final 23 for the summer,” added Pearce.
“Their club form and performances for England will be important when we choose who to take with us to the Finals so it’s also nice to see so many of the squad now playing regular first-team football.
“Earlier this season maybe less than half of our squad was playing every week, but now nearly everyone is turning out in the Premier League or Championship on a Saturday afternoon.
“Daniel Sturridge has played in a number of games for Chelsea, but hasn’t had a lot of minutes, so his move to Bolton is very important and could give him the chance to start more often and gain more experience in the Premier League.”
“Martin Kelly is playing regularly at Liverpool, James Tomkins has had a long run in the West Ham side and is back in for the first time in over a year while Fabian Delph returns to the side too, so we have a strong group of players.
“And the message will be that we have games coming up for the players to impress upon the coaching staff their credentials for a place on the plane to Denmark. We want to have a tough job of narrowing down to 23 so we have the best chance of success in the summer.”
The Italy match also represents a clash between two of the top four ranked nations in Europe. England rose to number one in UEFA’s rankings just last week, with Italy placed fourth in the co-efficient ranking system, which is based on performances in competitive fixtures in the previous four seasons.
Both nations will be competing in the UEFA European Championship Finals in June, and last faced each other in the 2007 tournament, when David Nugent and Leroy Lita were on target for the Three Lions before Giorgio Chiellini and Alberto Aquilani earned a 2-2 draw in the group stage encounter.
The fixture is also the first of three friendlies for Pearce’s young charges, with matches against Denmark away on 24 March and Iceland at Preston North End four days later.
Frankie Fielding (Blackburn Rovers), Scott Loach (Watford), Jason Steele (Middlesbrough)
Joe Bennett (Middlesbrough), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Martin Kelly (Liverpool), Ben Mee (Leicester City - loan from Manchester City), Micah Richards (Manchester City), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), James Tomkins (West Ham United), Kyle Walker (Aston Villa - loan from Tottenham Hotspur)
Marc Albrighton (Aston Villa), Jack Cork (Burnley - loan from Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Aston Villa), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Southampton), Jordan Henderson (Sunderland), Henri Lansbury (Norwich City - loan from Arsenal), Fabrice Muamba (Bolton Wanderers), Jack Rodwell (Everton), Scott Sinclair (Swansea City)
Nathan Delfouneso (Aston Villa), Jay Rodriguez (Burnley), Daniel Sturridge (Bolton Wanderers - loan from Chelsea)