Football: Wilkinson picks his `graduates'

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The Independent Online
THE Manchester United striker Luke Chadwick and the Liverpool midfielder Stephen Gerrard have received their first England Under-21 call-ups for the European Championship games against Luxembourg and Poland next month.

The pair have been included in the new head coach Howard Wilkinson's 23-strong squad for the games with Luxembourg at Reading on 3 September and in Poland four days later. They will join a host of proven Premiership talent selected by Wilkinson, who had a previous spell in the post during the latter days of Ron Greenwood's reign as England manager.

Two thirds of the squad now play in the Premier League on a regular basis and the same sort of percentage have graduated through the England youth ranks. Their development has been overseen by Wilkinson in his role as the Football Association's technical director.

Wilkinson said: "The current Under-21 team has been together for 12 months and with this tournament they will go over the age limit. What I have to do in the next 12 months is make sure that the players who are too old for the England Under-18s step up and make the transition."

Wilkinson still has plenty of experience to call upon, including the captain Frank Lampard, Emile Heskey, Lee Bowyer, John Curtis, Kieron Dyer, Richard Wright, Michael Ball and Jamie Carragher. They have won nearly 100 caps between them and formed the nucleus of the side which has already won their European group with a 100 per-cent record.

Wilkinson's assistant, the Sunderland manager Peter Reid, will link up with the squad next Monday. But the demands of his role with the Premiership newcomers mean he is unlikely to make the trip to Poland.

ENGLAND UNDER-21 SQUAD (European Under-21 Championship qualifiers v Luxembourg, Reading, 3 September; v Poland, Plock, 7 September): R Wright (Ipswich), Robinson (Leeds), Weaver (Manchester City); Griffin (Newcastle), Dyer (Newcastle), Mills (Leeds), Carragher (Liverpool), Upson (Arsenal), Curtis (Manchester Utd), Young (Tottenham), Johnson (Derby), Ball (Everton), Lampard (West Ham), Gerrard (Liverpool), Bowyer (Leeds), Morris (Chelsea), Hendrie (Aston Villa), Heskey (Leicester), Smith (Leeds), Cort (Wimbledon), Bridges (Leeds), Chadwick (Manchester Utd), Vassell (Aston Villa).

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