Football: Wilkinson turns to Woodgate for key encounter

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THE ENGLAND Under-21 coach, Howard Wilkinson, has given a first call-up to the central defender Jonathon Woodgate, one of six Leeds players in a squad packed with experience for the European Championship play-off with Yugoslavia in Luxembourg on 14 November.

Woodgate has already played for his country at full level during his rapid rise during the past 12 months.

Now Wilkinson, a former manager at Elland Road who brought Woodgate to the Yorkshire club, is looking to him to help England claim a place in the last eight of the competition.

Leeds' outstanding form which has taken them to the top of the Premiership and into the third round of the Uefa Cup has been recognised with Wilkinson also including Alan Smith, Lee Bowyer, Michael Bridges, Danny Mills and the goalkeeper Paul Robinson.

Woodgate is one of four players who have already represented their country at senior level along with the Under-21 captain Frank Lampard of West Ham, Liverpool's Jamie Carragher and Aston Villa's Lee Hendrie.

Lampard made his debut in last month's friendly international with Belgium at the Stadium of Light and has been a prolific goal-scorer for the Under- 21s with seven goals in helping them top their European Championship qualifying group. Carragher captained the Under-21s in last month's friendly with Denmark at Bradford when he equalled the appearance record for England at that level with his 22nd cap. The Aston Villa midfielder Hendrie is included, even though by his own admission he has suffered a loss of form and confidence this season.

Three other members of the squad, Richard Wright, Danny Mills and Michael Ball, have already been in the full squad but without going on to make their debut.

The tie has been reduced to a one-off affair at the neutral venue in Luxembourg after Uefa decided Yugoslavia could not hold the home leg because of fears over security.

ENGLAND UNDER-21 SQUAD (European Under-21 Championship play-off v Yugoslavia, Luxembourg, 14 November): Wright (Ipswich), Weaver (Manchester City), Robinson (Leeds), Curtis (Man Utd), Chadwick (Man Utd), Ball (Everton), Johnson (Derby), Carragher (Liverpool), Mills (Leeds), Upson (Arsenal), Woodgate (Leeds), Young (Tottenham), Lampard (West Ham, capt), Bowyer (Leeds), Gerrard (Liverpool), Hendrie (Aston Villa), Thompson (Liverpool), Beattie (Southampton), Cort (Wimbledon), Bridges (Leeds), Smith (Leeds), Vassell (Aston Villa).