Football: Wilkinson backs Morris

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JODY MORRIS has been assured by the new England Under-21 coach, Howard Wilkinson, that the lack of first-team chances will not hamper his international prospects.

The Chelsea midfielder has found his opportunities to flourish in the Premiership limited due to Chelsea's preference for foreign players. Wilkinson, however, has told the 20-year-old, called up for the European Under-21 Championship qualifiers with Luxembourg and Poland, that the situation will not harm his chances.

Morris said: "I had a think at one stage about whether my opportunities with England would be affected by not playing regular first-team football.

"But [the previous Under-21 coach] Peter Taylor gave me a boost by saying he would take every opportunity to watch me at Chelsea whether it was at first-team or reserve level.

"Then I was glad when Howard Wilkinson pulled me to one side and said I had no need to worry about how many first-team games I played for Chelsea.

"He said that there were even players being put into the full England squad who don't play regularly for their club."

The West Ham United midfielder Frank Lampard, the Under-21 captain during Taylor's tenure, keeps the armband, with Jamie Carragher continuing as vice-captain.

"Frank is a mature young lad. Above all, he and Jamie Carragher have got leadership qualities," Wilkinson said. "These qualities need to be encouraged and I want other players to look at them and see them as role models."

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