Johnson earns recall to England Under-21 squad

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The Independent Football

Glen Johnson's international career appears to be back on track after he was included in the England Under-21s squad to face Norway in a friendly at the Madejski Stadium on 28 February.

The 21-year-old Chelsea full-back had been omitted from the squad for the final games of the Uefa Championship qualifying campaign last year, although the England Under-21s' coach, Peter Taylor, denied suggestions that the player's discipline, or lack of, was the cause.

Johnson has since featured in Chelsea's first team and could be a key member of Taylor's squad looking to qualify for the 2007 championships next May, with Blackburn's David Bentley and Middlesbrough's Stewart Downing.

Taylor said: "Glen's been playing more first-team football for Chelsea recently while David Bentley is now playing every week for Blackburn and scoring."

Johnson's first appearance of the season was for the senior team in the embarrassing 4-1 defeat in Denmark and the former West Ham defender has only just returned to the first-team fold at Stamford Bridge. Johnson and the rest of the squad for the Norway friendly will be available for the qualifying campaign, with Taylor hoping to get further than their last campaign when France defeated them in the qualifying play-offs.

"We've got a strong and exciting squad here, with a lot of players who are doing very well for their clubs at the moment," Taylor added. "There's a mixture of younger lads fairly new to this level with some who are returning to the squad.

"Since the defeat against France in the play-off in November we've lost a few of the older players like Carlton Cole, Michael Dawson, Gary O'Neil and Dean Ashton. However, we're welcoming back three more experienced players in Stewart Downing, Glen Johnson and David Bentley.

"Stewart has been very unlucky with injury, but looks to have regained his form. It gives players a chance to play Under-21 football when they are playing regularly for their clubs."

The Reading striker Leroy Lita has been rewarded for his sparking club form - he has scored 14 in 25 starts this season - and the 21-year-old could feature on his home ground.

Lita made his Under-21 debut against the Netherlands last season, scoring a consolation goal at Pride Park, and he has since moved to the Madejski Stadium from Bristol City.

Lita said: "Making my Under-21s debut was a dream come true and I'd love to get another chance at the Madejski.

"It's my home ground, so it will be even more special to me. The fans are great and it will be a very good atmosphere."

Taylor added: "It will obviously be special for Leroy Lita on his home soil. He's playing fantastically for Reading and scored on his under-21s debut against Holland."

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