Football

U21 duo have bright futures, says Pearce

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England Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce is confident Phil Jones and Jordan Henderson will get plenty of game time at Manchester United and Liverpool next season.

The duo face a much harder task holding down spots at United and Liverpool than at Blackburn and Sunderland. But Pearce pointed to the example of Jones' defensive partner Chris Smalling as someone who has proven it can be done following his own move from Fulham to Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

"Chris Smalling's gone to a so-called bigger club last summer. But if you look at the appearances he's had, Alex isn't afraid to put the young players in and say, 'Go on then - let's see what you can do'," said Pearce.

"I went to a Champions League semi-final and watched Chris Smalling playing. If you had said to me last summer, 'Would he get the opportunity to play as many games as he has and as many high-profile matches?', I would've said, 'No chance'."

Pearce includes this summer's tournament in that "high-profile" category and believes English players and clubs need to take it more seriously if the country is to end its 45-year major trophy drought.


 

The England boss pointed to the example of Sunday's opening Group B opponents Spain, who boast two World Cup winners and a Champions League winner in their ranks. In stark contrast, Pearce has seen four of his six senior internationals cry off from his original 40-man provisional squad.

He added: "I've always said that I think we have to get the foundations right at the younger age groups, under-21 and below. You have to make sure that people are getting tournament experience before they walk on the stage at the World Cup.

"The Spanish side, who we're up against on Sunday, have a couple of World Cup winners. They've got that experience and yet they're also fighting tooth and nail to get here.

"I also hear that (Sergio) Busquets was desperate to come here, so we have to learn a lesson from that and make sure that when we do step on this stage, the strongest players are here.

"The best players like playing alongside the best players, that's the bottom line. To do my job as best as I possibly can, I have to make sure that the best players in England are here."

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