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Pearce delighted after 'fantastic' England call-up for Sterling

The England Under-21 manager has hailed the Liverpool youngster's inclusion and believes that it is "a reflection of the depth of talent" available to the Three Lions

Stuart Pearce has admitted that Raheem Sterling was in his selection plans for his England Under-21 side, but is delighted with his shock call-up to the senior squad.

Despite making just five Premier League appearances for Liverpool, the 17-year-old starlet was a surprise inclusion in Roy Hodgson's squad to face Ukraine after Theo Walcott pulled out of the World Cup 2014 qualifier.

Pearce believes that Jamaican-born Sterling's inclusion will provide motivation to other youngsters to take any opportunity at their domestic clubs as they could get recognition at international level.

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Speaking to reporters after his Under-21 side beat Norway 1-0, he said: "I think there's a pathway for any young player that can take them from the Under 19s a few days ago to the full senior squad.

“It is a reflection of the depth of talent but also a fact that we're looking at these players and, if they break into their club’s side and are doing well, they'll get the opportunity."

It had been reported that Sterling was being lined up by the Jamaican FA to represent their senior side, with the winger eligible to play due to being born in Kingston - but it appears England boss Roy Hodgson sees Sterling as a bright prospect.

Pearce continued: "That's fantastic for him. He's obviously one we've been having a close look at Under-21 level, but it looks as though his experience will be better served in the senior team."

Meanwhile, Pearce was relieved to get the victory over Norway, labelling them a “tough side”, and admits they will need to play better if they are going to be successful in the subsequent play-off draw.

He said: "We had tough travelling commitments, it took ages, but we managed to pick up a good victory that set us up in this game.

“I think Norway came out the traps fantastically well tonight, they're a tough side. I think they're going to cause anyone a problem in the play-offs. It wasn't a convincing performance from us but I think we improved certainly by the start of the second-half and midway through the half."

Pearce also hailed Tottenham left-back Danny Rose, who picked up the man of the match award, and heaped praise on his domestic team-mate Steven Caulker and Under-21 newcomer Thomas Ince.

He added: "The performances [have been good] over the two games from Danny Rose and Martin Kelly, and both my goalkeepers have done well.

“Caulker has done very well for us, Incey's come in and it's his first taste of under-21 football. We've had four new faces within the group and to win seven out of eight games in international football isn't easy.”

I'm pleased with that and I'm pleased to have topped the group. We know full well we're going to have to play better next month to be anywhere near successful in the finals."

Pearce also had a word of mention for goalscorer Connor Wickham, who has endured a tough time at Sunderland since his £8 million move from Ipswich.
"I'm pleased for Connor he's very worked hard this week and he's been patient for his chance. The big problem is Connor hasn't played a great deal of football, first-team especially it's the same with Waghorn at the moment at this stage of the season.