Football: Barry set for fast track to full England squad

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The Independent Online
ASTON VILLA'S rising star, the central defender Gareth Barry, looks set to take a fast track towards full international football with England.

Barry has been left out of the 18-strong party named by the England under- 18 manager, Howard Wilkinson, for the European Championship qualifying group in Israel later this month.

It means he is a certainty for the under-21 squad at the tender age of 17 for the friendly international with the Czech Republic at Ipswich on 17 November.

Barry has impressed the England coach, Glenn Hoddle, on several occasions this season and trained with the senior squad before last month's Euro 2000 qualifiers with Bulgaria and Luxembourg. Nevertheless, Wilkinson still has an exciting squad at his disposal to take to Israel for matches against Spain (16 November), Andorra (18 November) and the host nation (20 November).

"I think youth football in England at the moment is very exciting," Wilkinson said. "You only have to look at last year's under-19s in Matthew Upson, Michael Ball, Wesley Brown, Andrew Griffin and Steve Simonsen, who are all forcing their way through and playing Premiership football.

"The same applies to this squad and we now have increasing continuity in that players appearing for England at under-15 and under-16 are also going on and appearing at under-18 and under-19 level.

"The purpose is to ensure more of them reach full international standard - and when they get there they are prepared for it so that the step up is not so enormous. Michael Owen and Sol Campbell are two examples of this policy working."

If England top their group they will then play a two-legged intermediate round and victory in that would clinch their place in next summer's finals in Sweden.

ENGLAND UNDER-18: C Riggott (Derby), W Bridge (Southampton), L Chadwick (Man Utd), S Gerrard (Liverpool), R Green (Norwich), F Jeffers (Everton), J Milligan (Everton), L Naylor (Wolves), S Parker (Charlton), L Roche (Man Utd), A Smith (Leeds), S Taylor (Arsenal), D Vassell (Aston Villa), R Wellens (Man Utd), J Woodgate (Leeds), C Woodhouse (Sheffield Utd), D Wright (Crewe), S Wright (Liverpool).