Zaha earns first U21s call
Thursday, 23 February, 2012
Palace winger one of two new faces in Young Lions squad.
Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has been handed his first call-up to the England Under-21s squad for next Wednesday's Euro 2013 Qualifier in Middlesbrough.
The 19-year-old, who has previously appeared for the Three Lions at U19 level, has been impressing in the Championship since his debut two years ago. He's already racked up an impressive 81 appearances for the Eagles, including a key role in their 2-1 League Cup win over Manchester United at Old Trafford in November.
There is also a debut call for Hull City midfielder Cameron Stewart, who has made 30 appearances in the Championship since his move from Manchester United in November 2010, initially on loan. Having featured for England at U17, U19 and U20s level, he'll be looking to make his Under-21s bow at the Riverside, where he also had his first outing for the Tigers.
Middlesbrough themselves have two players in the squad keen to pull on the Three Lions in front of their home crowd; goalkeeper Jason Steele and defender Joe Bennett.
England take on Belgium in a top-of-the-table clash at the Riverside on Wednesday and Under-21s Coach Brian Eastick will be taking the reins of the squad, with Stuart Pearce and Steve Wigley in London for the Senior Team's game against Holland. Having worked alongside Pearce in the Under-21s set-up for three years, Eastick expects continuity to be maintained.
"This opportunity is something I regard as a privilege, as I do whenever I have been Head Coach of any England team," said Eastick, who was Head Coach for England at last summer's FIFA U20 World Cup in Colombia.
"Due to the environment that Stuart has developed within the Under-21s set-up, it will hopefully be a seamless transition for this game with continuity being maintained with regards to our principles of play."
He continued: "Stuart and I have had a good professional relationship having worked together closely during his five years at The FA. Last week I sat down with him to discuss the overall plans for this get-together and careful consideration has been given to the make-up of both the Senior and Under-21s squads."
"There are a couple of new faces in the group, with Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha and Hull City's Cameron Stewart coming in for the first time. They both deserve their opportunities after some impressive performances at club level."
Eastick added: "This match is very important to us and one we would dearly like to win, particularly after the loss we suffered away in Belgium back in November.
"That gave Belgium a life-line in the group and they are now just four points behind us. Therefore, the importance of this game cannot be underestimated if we are to reach our immediate aim of winning the group and going into the play-offs."
Ben Amos (Manchester United), Jack Butland (Cheltenham Town - loan from Birmingham City), Jason Steele (Middlesbrough)
Joe Bennett (Middlesbrough), Ryan Bennett (Peterborough United - loan from Norwich City), Steven Caulker (Swansea City - loan from Tottenham), Craig Dawson (West Bromwich Albion), Martin Kelly (Liverpool), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), Adam Smith (Leeds United - loan from Tottenham Hotspur)
Gary Gardner (Aston Villa), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Henri Lansbury (West Ham United - loan from Arsenal), Jason Lowe (Blackburn Rovers), Josh McEachran (Swansea City - loan from Chelsea), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Jonjo Shelvey (Liverpool), Cameron Stewart (Hull City), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
Nathan Delfouneso (Leicester City - loan from Aston Villa), Will Keane (Manchester United), Marvin Sordell (Bolton Wanderers), Connor Wickham (Sunderland)
Tickets for England's meeting with Belgium on Wednesday 29 February 2012 (6pm ko) are on sale now. Calling 0844 499 1234, buy online at www.mfc.co.uk or in person at the Riverside ticket office.