Pearce concerned by home-grown chances

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Football News

England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce admits there is "concern" about how many home-grown youngsters get a chance to impress in the Barclays Premier League - but maintained they can all take heart from playing alongside "the cream of the world".

Wembley will provide the setting for some of England's most promising talent to showcase their skills in Friday night's final qualifier of the 2009 European Championships campaign against Portugal.

But Pearce said: "We are concerned that there are not as many young English players, or even older English players, in the top league as they were some years ago."

"We just have to make sure, the ones we have, that we coach them correctly and look at the positives," he added.

"These guys are playing with the cream of the world, so whenever they go onto the pitch - for the Under-21s or the seniors - you can say 'listen, there are no surprises out there because all of the top players are in the same league as you'."

The likes of Gabriel Agbonlahor, who is expected to be fit following a stomach bug, have certainly made significant strides since breaking into the Aston Villa first team - the striker smashed a hat-trick on the opening day of the new season against Manchester City and has also been involved in the full senior squad.

Friday's clash will mark the Under-21s competitive debut at the new Wembley, having opened the renovated national stadium against Italy in a friendly during March last year.

Pearce's youngsters need only a draw to secure first place in Group Three - and even if they lose to Portugal, England should have enough points to reach a two-legged play-off in October as one of the best runners-up.

"Playing here are Wembley is vital. It will be a tremendous experience for them," said Pearce.

"What you don't want is a group of players who are trying to break into the senior national team for it to be their first time stepping out at Wembley. It will then not be new to them, not be daunting and be their home."

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Gabriel Agbonlahor
Manchester City
Stuart Pearce
Aston Villa

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