England starlets Raheem Sterling, Wilfried Zaha and Jonjo Shelvey face long summer
Hodgson drops trio to Under-21s to prepare them for junior Euros
Roy Hodgson will leave Raheem Sterling, Wilfried Zaha and Jonjo Shelvey out of his senior England squad today in order for them to be picked for the Under-21s next week, in preparation for all three playing in the Under-21 European Championship this summer.
The Football Association has been in talks with Liverpool and Manchester United over the move to avoid a similar situation to the one which engulfed Theo Walcott's participation in the 2009 Under-21 European Championship. On that occasion, his club manager at Arsenal, Arsène Wenger, was furious that the player, by then already capped at senior level, should be asked to drop down a level.
Hodgson will pick an experienced squad for the friendly against Brazil on Wednesday, a key part of the FA's 150th anniversary celebrations. He wants to give his senior players time on the pitch before the crucial 2014 World Cup qualifying double-header against San Marino and Montenegro in March.
Although Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both eligible for the Under-21s, their greater experience at the higher level means that they will be part of the senior squad that Hodgson names on Thursday afternoon. There will also be the announcement of the Under-21 squad for their friendly against Sweden in Walsall on Tuesday.
The FA is keen that young players get tournament experience and regard this summer's fortnight-long European Championship in Israel, starting on 5 June, as crucial to the development of international players.
Another inclusion in Stuart Pearce's Under-21 squad today will be the 17-year-old Southampton left-back Luke Shaw who has made such an impression in the Premier League in the last month. It will mark a rapid rise for Shaw who leapfrogs three age-classes, having previously played at Under-17 level.
Sterling and Zaha both made their debut for the senior team against Sweden in November, Shelvey a month earlier as a second-half substitute in the World Cup qualifying win over San Marino at Wembley. Between them they have been capped for the Under-21s 13 times, and Sterling, the youngest of the three, was only 18 last month.
As it stands, Hodgson has a good selection of players from which to choose with no injuries to key players. The squad will meet on Sunday at St George's Park for the eagerly anticipated inaugural England Player of the Year awards, another element of the 150th anniversary celebrations. The ceremony's guest of honour, Pele, withdrew but he will attend the game on Wednesday.
So keen is the FA that the Manchester City and Liverpool contingent, including Steven Gerrard, the captain, should attend that it is considering bringing the players from Manchester by helicopter after the two clubs' Premier League game which kicks off at 4pm.
The game against Brazil will also mark, if selected, Ashley Cole's 100th cap ,when he will join a select club that currently numbers just six. Gerrard won his 100th cap against Sweden in November. As yet there have been no announcements by the FA as to how it plans to mark Cole's milestone, especially given his problematic relationship with the media over the last seven years of his career.
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