Pearce picks squad for U21s qualifiers
Wednesday, 02 November, 2011
Five newcomers called up for Iceland and Belgium double-header.
Get the latest from the England Under-21s camp from the team's official Facebook page
Preparations have started for the international week as Stuart Pearce today named a 25-man squad for England Under-21s European Championship Qualification double-header against Iceland and Belgium.
And Pearce's team will be full of confidence when they arrive at Colchester United's Weston Homes Community Stadium for the first of those games against Iceland on Thursday 10 November.
A sell-out crowd at the League One club will hope the young Lions can maintain their 100 percent start to the campaign, which includes two well-earned away wins last month against Iceland and Norway. On 14 November, they then take on Belgium at RAEC Mons to round-off 2011.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s hat-trick in Reykjavik secured a 3-0 victory, then four days later in Drammen, early strikes from Craig Dawson and captain Jordan Henderson were enough to beat Norway and open up a three point lead at the top of the Group 8 table.
But as Pearce looks to guide England to a fourth successive Finals tournament, he knows that his team can’t afford to take their foot off the gas at all in qualifying.
“We would have taken four points from those before the game so to come back with six out of six is a fantastic achievement, especially when you consider the adversity that led into the Norway game with three players picking up injuries.
“But there were no excuses and it really galvanised the group. Their attitude is fantastic, and in this clutch of players we have some very solid individuals, who have a great approach and a great attitude. I was impressed with them all.”
Pearce added: “We're fortunate that we got two tricky away games out of the way, but we have to maximise that at home and make sure there are no slip-ups. With only one team certain of a place in the play-offs, dropping any points in the group puts you under real pressure.”
England will be without the injured West Ham midfielder Henri Lansbury, who has been in great form this season scoring three goals in four games, but Pearce calls on five new players in Crystal Palace’s Nathaniel Clyne, Brighton’s Lewis Dunk, Barnsley’s Jacob Butterfield, Tottenham’s Tom Carroll, and Middlesbrough’s Alex Nimely.
Meanwhile, Boro keeper Jason Steele, who was part of the Three Lions squad at the Euro 2011 Finals in Denmark this summer, returns from injury and will be looking to push Jack Butland for the number one shirt.
“Jason was nailed on to be starter in this campaign, but you never know what is around the corner in football. We think he's going to start with us this season then he gets injured and misses the Under-21s as well as all his club football,” continued Pearce.
“Credit to young Jack Butland, he has taken his opportunity. We have a group of four goalkeepers who, in my opinion, are the strongest group we have ever had in the squad. They are all excellent goalkeepers.”
He added: “Unfortunately Henri Lansbury is missing, and he’s been excellent on the pitch and around the camp and has weighed in with some important goals.
“I’ve called in a few first-timers, though, who have impressed this season. Lewis Dunk has been playing particular well at Brighton. He seems to play above his age in the way he carries himself on a football pitch. Nathaniel Clyne, Tom Carroll and Jacob Butterfield, likewise, have looked good for their clubs and have forced their way into our thinking.
“We're always looking for strikers and Alex Nimely has been playing at Middlesbrough this year, and although he's not a regular starter at the moment, this is the last opportunity of the year to get someone new into the squad and for them to stake a claim.”
Pearce has also named a five-man standby list of Joe Bennett, Declan Rudd, Jonjo Shelvey, Andros Townsend and Dan Gosling.
The England Under-21s squad in full
Ben Amos (Manchester United), Jack Butland (Cheltenham Town - loan from Birmingham City), Jason Steele (Middlesbrough)
Nathan Baker (Aston Villa), Ryan Bennett (Peterborough United), Matthew Briggs (Fulham), Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace), Craig Dawson (West Bromwich Albion), Lewis Dunk (Brighton & Hove Albion), Jon Flanagan (Liverpool), Martin Kelly (Liverpool), Adam Smith (MK Dons - loan from Tottenham Hotspur)
Ross Barkley (Everton), Jacob Butterfield (Barnsley), Tom Carroll (Tottenham Hotspur), Gary Gardner (Aston Villa), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jason Lowe (Blackburn Rovers), Josh McEachran (Chelsea), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Jack Rodwell (Everton)
Nathan Delfouneso (Aston Villa), Alex Nimely (Middlesbrough - loan from Manchester City), Marvin Sordell (Watford), Connor Wickham (Sunderland)
Joe Bennett (Middlesbrough), Declan Rudd (Norwich City), Jonjo Shelvey (Blackpool - loan from Liverpool), Andros Townsend (Tottenham Hotspur), Dan Gosling (Newcastle United)
We'll bring you all the latest updates for the England Under-21s squad here or via www.twitter.com/thefadotcom