Pearce preparing young Lions to become the pride of England

As Jack Wilshere’s assured performance for England drew a rare smile from Fabio Capello on Saturday, Stuart Pearce is already planning for life without the cultured midfielder. The Under-21 manager is quietly assembling a squad that he hopes can claw away the memories of two years previous – where his side was humbled 4-0 by Germany in the European Championships final.

Danny Welbeck, Jordan Henderson and Danny Sturridge – who all scored in the Under 21’s 4-0 win over Denmark on Friday – join Chris Smalling and Fabrice Muamba in returning to their clubs ahead of tonight’s friendly with Iceland. It is a scenario that mirrors the senior setup and gives Pearce the chance to determine the quality of a number of players looking to force their way into his plans ahead of the European Championships in Denmark this June. In addition, Micah Richards and Kieran Gibbs are notable injury absentees that will not only stretch Pearce’s resources but also provide an opportunity to some of the younger players that have progressed from the Under 19 team that were European semi-finalists last summer – most notably Aston Villa pair Nathan Baker and Nathan Delfouneso.

Among the replacement call-ups is Wolves’ Adam Hammill. The winger has made a promising start to his Premier League career after his form at Barnsley made him one of the stand-out players in the Championship during the past 18 months. Hammill’s addition is an interesting one. Despite being 23-years-old he is eligible for the tournament as he was still 21 at the beginning of the qualifying stages. The former Liverpool man has been drafted in from the wilderness, having not represented England since 2006 as an Under 19 international. His inclusion is a testament to him maturing into an option capable of pushing for a place on either flank but also of Pearce ensuring that all candidates are reviewed before finalising his squad.

The fluidity on display with the senior side in their Euro 2012 qualifier with Wales was also present during the Under 21’s emphatic disposal of Denmark. Welbeck, Sturridge and Scott Sinclair have all proven that they can operate in wide areas or at the focal point of the attack at club level. The movement and confidence of the trio posed questions that the Danish defence could not answer and it conveys that the side are in a healthy state, particularly with the craft of Marc Albrighton supplying the front line. It remains to be seen whether Wilshere will be amongst his peers after adapting to senior international football seamlessly, but his presence is sure to enhance England’s tournament prospects.

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