Jack Wilshere vows to play for England Under-21s
Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has vowed to play for England at this summer's European Under-21 Championship, insisting: "I will never say no to my country."
Head coach Stuart Pearce yesterday defied opposition from Gunners boss Arsene Wenger by selecting Wilshere in his provisional 40-man squad for June's finals in Denmark.
Wenger is adamant Wilshere should not play in the tournament having become part of England's senior set-up, amid fears the 19-year-old may suffer burnout after a season which has already seen him play 52 times for club and country.
But Wilshere has no intention of asking for a rest, telling this month's 4-4-2 magazine: "This summer, if I'm selected, I'll play for the Under-21s.
"It's down to Arsene Wenger, Fabio Capello and Stuart Pearce, but I will never say no to my country."
Wilshere is certain to make Pearce's final 23, along with Liverpool striker Andy Carroll, who was another controversial selection yesterday.
However, even with those two on board, Pearce claims his Under-21 Championship squad will be weaker than that which reached the final two years ago.
Never before has any England side travelled to a tournament with a £35million player - Carroll - in their ranks, while Wilshere has just been crowned the Professional Footballers' Association Young Player of the Year.
But Pearce does not believe his squad will be as strong as that he took to Sweden in 2009, which included the likes of Joe Hart, James Milner, Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott.
"I personally think the last squad that I took was extremely strong," Pearce told Press Association Sport.
"I'm not sure this squad is as strong as that.
"There are some great players who have been through the Under-21s and a mark of it probably is the fact that they've made that transition into the senior team.
"If we come back with the trophy, I'll probably turn around and say I was wrong."
Despite this, England will be expected to reach the final at the very least in a competition missing virtually every other big nation apart from Spain.
Pearce's biggest headache could be integrating Wilshere and Carroll back into his team.
By the time the tournament kicks off, Wilshere will not have played for the Under-21s for eight months, while Carroll's last cap at youth level came in March last year.
Both are likely to be in the senior squad for the June 4 Euro 2012p qualifier against Switzerland, meaning they would not even play a part in the Under-21s' final pre-tournament friendly against Norway 24 hours later.
But Pearce said: "Under-21 football chops and changes quite a bit.
"We've got 40 individuals there and only one is uncapped. It shows the turnaround. A lot of players drop in and drop out.
"We had a meeting in March. Those who were with the senior squad at the time came over to meet us at the hotel and we outlined exactly what this summer is going to be all about.
"Andy was there, Jack was there, Kyle Walker was there.
"We've had a good look at it. We feel whatever squad we have, the beauty is they have been pretty successful. They've all added to the ethos of the squad."
And despite his admission about the quality of his current crop, Pearce believes he has in his ranks the stars of the future at senior level.
"There is some real talent - Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Micah Richards - and hopefully they are going to go to a major tournament this summer and showcase their ability," he said.
"That's the best way to get into the senior team, with the manager looking on.
"He wants me to be successful as he realises it might be more players for him in the production line."
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