Stuart Pearce seeks showdown with Roy Hodgson over England Under-21s

Stuart Pearce has said he wants "more support" from Roy Hodgson and made it clear he wants the England manager to change his mind and let him take Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to this summer's European Under-21 Championship.

Pearce believes the chances of his England Under-21s having a successful tournament will be undermined if Hodgson goes through with his plans to deny him the two Arsenal players so they can take part in the senior team's friendlies against the Republic of Ireland and Brazil.

Hodgson has already stated that he will not free up Wilshere to play for the Under-21s in Israel – "You have to give Wilshere the credit that he has established himself as a bona-fide first-team player," he explained – but sanctioned the selections of Wilfried Zaha, Raheem Sterling and Jonjo Shelvey. Hodgson also wants to keep Oxlade-Chamberlain with the seniors and, for Pearce, that represents a potentially serious setback. "I've always said the same thing," he said. "Unless you take your strongest squad you can't be competitive."

Pearce intends to put across his views in a meeting with Hodgson later in the season, when he will argue that it would be better for the younger players to be involved in a major tournament. If Pearce gets his way, he is then willing to take on Arsène Wenger, knowing that Arsenal's manager is against the involvement of Oxlade-Chamberlain and particularly Wilshere.

"We've had support [from Hodgson] in some ways but, doing my job, I'd probably prefer a bit more support in regard to the players," Pearce said. "It's not just for my personal point of view, but I honestly feel that giving these players tournament experience will benefit the seniors in the long run.

"We also have resistance from clubs on the odd occasion. But I've got my own mentality when it comes to what's going to help our senior team win a World Cup or European Championships. I just have to look at the Spanish and the French. They all do the same, they build from the bottom, build up and then, eventually, they win the World Cups and European Championships.

"It's experience of a tournament, that's how I see it. We have to get these players from the age of 16 or 17 and give them as much tournament experience as we humanly can. So when they step on that senior stage they have had two, three or four tournaments. That's what you have to do so they can eventually go into the seniors with that mentality."

Pearce, whose contract expires in the summer and is not sure whether he will be offered a new one, was asked whether he would put a case to Hodgson that he should be allowed to take the strongest squad possible. "Of course I will," he replied.

He also said he expected Hodgson to be receptive to his suggestions but, asked directly about Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain, he admitted he could not be certain whether he would get his way. "That's down to Roy really. If he deems he wants those players with him in Brazil then so be it. If he says to me they are available then I certainly wouldn't turn them down. They would make my team a lot stronger."

The same applies to Jack Butland, England's second-choice goalkeeper, and Phil Jones, the Manchester United defender. "It should be driven from the top, not driven from me," Pearce continued. "What we'll end up doing is getting some time together in April to speak about it. By that stage I'll be looking to hone that squad. We will see who is fit and who needs tournament experience and collate the squad from there."

Sterling's involvement in a tournament that does not end until 18 June has led to concerns the 18-year-old may suffer from burnout. This has also been the issue Wenger has had with the use of Arsenal's players, but Pearce had his own take on the club-versus-country issue. "I see a lot about players being rested, but where should the priority be on burnout? Should the clubs rest for the national team?"

He added: "We went down the same route six years ago when David Bentley pulled out the squad because he didn't want to burn out over the summer. Now I can't remember the last time I saw the kid play a game."

Powered by article was written by Daniel Taylor, for The Guardian on Wednesday 6th February 2013 22.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © stella gonzales

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