Stuart Pearce has announced an extremely strong England Under-21s squad for their upcoming friendlies against Norway and France...Theo Walcott may have been England's hat-trick hero when the Three Lions roared to a resounding 4-1 away win in Zagreb last year, but the pacey winger-come-forward will have to settle for a slight demotion as he is set to return to Stuart Pearce's Under-21 squad while he continues to find full match fitness following his long-term shoulder injury.
Fellow flanker Aaron Lennon has been in scintillating form for Tottenham Hotspur. The diminutive electric-accelerator has oft been criticised for lacking end product but his final ball, together with his decision-making, have been of a good standard in domestic club duty of late and there were calls for his inclusion in Fabio Capello's squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Like Walcott, Lennon will have to be satisfied with the call-up to the U-21s.
Pearce has named a ferociously-strong squad and looks intent of making a firm statement by claiming notable wins against both Norway and France during the side's scheduled friendlies during the next international break.
James Milner, Micah Richards, Jack Rodwell, Michael Mancienne, Joe Hart, Tom Huddlestone and Danny Welbeck have also been included.
Regarding the fixtures and his squad selection, Stuart Pearce told the official website of the FA, "We wanted to take on a Scandinavian side as we've got Finland in the European Championships so Norway was a good option. On top of that we wanted another 'A-line' nation that hadn't reached the finals and they don't come much better than France, so it's a fantastic game for us.
"The two games will give us a full ten days to work together. We can work on various things, both in the games and on the training pitch. It's not often you get the chance to have that length of time with the players and it'll be a vital period to prepare for the summer.
"Everyone who has been involved in the campaign has done themselves credit and players who don’t make the final squad shouldn’t think it’s a slight on them. It’s just evidence of how strong this age group has become.
"For me to take the likes of Welbeck and Rodwell to join the Under-21s... it’ll be a massive benefit [to them]. Whilst it means one or two playing at different age groups, we feel that for them it’s the best thing to do."
Full Squad is as follows...
Joe Hart; Scott Loach; Joe Lewis.
Kieran Gibbs; Michael Mancienne; Nedum Onuoha; Micah Richards; Andrew Taylor; Steven Taylor; David Wheater.
Lee Cattermole; Craig Gardner; Tom Huddlestone; Adam Johnson; James Milner; Fabrice Muamba; Mark Noble; Jamie O'Hara; Jack Rodwell; Theo Walcott.
Fraizer Campbell; Matt Derbyshire; Sylvan Ebanks-Blake; Daniel Welbeck.
Alan Dawson, Goal.com