Stuart Pearce watched a below-strength England Under-21 team lose 2-1 to their Iceland counterparts at Preston on Monday night and then stressed that he must be allowed to take the best available players to the European Championship in the summer.

That would mean the likes of Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere and Liverpool striker Andy Carroll, who are both now regulars in the senior side, being part of the squad for the tournament in Denmark in June.

Pearce's stance is likely to be unpopular with the players' clubs, but he said: "Jack's been in this squad, he helped the squad qualify for the finals, and I know how good he is. The same with Andy Carroll, who's played three or four matches at this level."

He added: "We would look slightly amateurish maybe if we decide to leave our best players at home because we generate this myth that we play more football than anybody else and all of a sudden maybe Spain turn up in our group and they might have a World Cup winner in their ranks. That would look rather silly I think."

Monday's result was a step back for England after their impressive 4-0 win over Denmark in another friendly last Thursday, although the side Pearce picked was considerably weaker.

He allowed the likes of Chris Smalling, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge to leave the squad and they were missed as, after Nathan Delfouneso gave the hosts a 13th-minute lead at Deepdale, Arnor Smarason (42) and West Ham youngster Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson (67) netted for Iceland.

Pearce, though, insisted the game had been a valuable lesson, saying: "I've got out of these two matches exactly what I wanted to see.

"I could have maybe fielded the strongest team in two games but then I don't see Marc Albrighton, Josh McEachran, Connor Wickham and so on.

"When I went into the games I needed to see as many players as I possibly could to give myself an idea for the summer, and on top of that I thought it was right and proper that the players that are playing more regularly put their feet up after Thursday evening, for my preparation.

"There's been a little bit talked about doing the clubs favours but my main consideration A is to England, B is for England to win, and C is to the players. The players care and that was what Thursday was all about."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Topics:
Chris Smalling
Josh McEachran
Marc Albrighton
Arsenal
Football
Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson
Championship
Preston North End
Danny Welbeck
Daniel Sturridge
Stuart Pearce
Nathan Delfouneso
Jack Wilshere
Connor Wickham
Liverpool