The England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce believes Fraizer Campbell has the potential to emulate Arsenal forward Theo Walcott and eventually force his way into Fabio Capello's senior squad. The Manchester United striker, who is on loan at Tottenham, scored for the Under-21 side in their comfortable 2-0 victory on Tuesday night over the Czech Republic at Bramall Lane, with a smart finish from a narrow angle in the 11th minute.
Aston Villa's Craig Gardner also got on the scoresheet and put in an assured performance in the centre of midfield. He doubled the lead with a well-taken free-kick in the 55th minute but it was the performance of man-of-the-match Campbell, who also won a penalty which was missed by Spurs' team-mate Jamie O'Hara, which really stood out. The 21-year-old was a constant threat to the Czech defence and took his goal superbly with a neat finish from a tight angle.
It capped an impressive few weeks for Campbell who scored twice against Liverpool in the Carling Cup and once against Fulham in the Premier League. "Fraizer played well," Pearce said. "He was a threat and is a goalscorer and he is one of those players who is a constant danger to defenders because of his pace and his ability to get in behind. When we look at the development of Theo Walcott – he played all the games for us in the campaign and started every match.
"He got a nice run of form, a nice run of matches and confidence which helped his club scenario and obviously helped his chances in the seniors.
"If we can give a grounding here – and this is a successful team – whoever comes in, whether they are winning their first cap or not, they have to pick up the mantle of a winning side.
"And if the likes of Fraizer Campbell and one or two others can get a goal and go back to the club on Saturday, whether it be a friendly or not, then they are heading in the right direction." Campbell, who scored 15 goals in 34 appearances to help Hull win promotion to the Premier League last season, is a relatively recent addition to Pearce's squad having made his Under-21 debut against Poland in March. And while Pearce is full of admiration for the striker he admitted he is keen for the youngster to develop certain aspects of his game and get more experience.
"I don't think we are looking at the finished article in Fraizer but then I would say that about anyone who is playing Under-21 level if I'm honest," Pearce added. "There is still room for improvement for Fraizer. I'm aware of that, Fraizer is aware of that, and obviously the more experience he gets at club level the more we'll see a better player. Obviously confidence plays a part in that and if he knows he can score at this level and score in the Premier League then we have a real player on our hands."
Pearce also expressed his delight at the strength in depth available to him at Under-21 level. Players such as Wolves defender Richard Stearman, who impressed on debut, and several late cameos, delighted the manager. "It was a pleasing result by the end and it could have been more than 2-0. It took us maybe an hour to knock them off and we should have been a touch more clinical when we were in possession," Pearce added. "To finish the calendar year unbeaten is always nice and it is important we keep an eye on one or two of these youngsters who have just come on the scene.
"If we wind the clock back two years, at this stage no one had heard of Ashley Young or Leroy Lita at Under-21 level. Now I'm hoping we might get a couple of players of that ilk who can push their way through to the squad in the summer. The more competition for places there is the better for me.
"At the moment We have a pool of around 30 players, maybe touching 40 to select from so we have developed a good resource of players. And that pool includes the Theo Walcotts of this world, Michael Mancienne, Gabriel Agbonlahor and whoever is not here at this moment in time."
Campbell's strike rate in 33 games for Royal Antwerp prompted the chant "There's only one Super Campbell".