Johnson's leadership qualities may bring promotion

Glen Johnson will captain England Under-21s for the first time this evening against The Netherlands in a friendly in Hull. The Chelsea defender is the most experienced member of the 22-man squad which also includes 15 players who are yet to win a cap at this level.

The Under-21 coach, David Platt, believes that the 19-year-old, who has been capped six times, has the qualities to be promoted into the senior squad for Euro 2004. "If Glen Johnson were to walk past, everybody would turn their head because he has presence and a status," Platt said. "When you are glancing round a room your eye gets drawn towards him, and to me it's that status that says he deserves the armband. When I told him, he looked me in the eye as if he expected it.

"At the moment, in terms of international football, Glen is at a level above the Under-21s, but slightly below the seniors and so has a fighting chance of being at Euro 2004, and I've spoken to him about it. His performances for Chelsea, other people's performances in his position and his performances for the Under-21s will dictate whether he goes to this year's European Championship. But as far as I'm concerned, he ticks every box there is in the make-up of an international footballer."

Platt will have to work fast with his new crop of youngsters, which includes the Leeds defender Matthew Kilgallon and Newcastle's Steven Taylor, the Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing and the Blackburn striker Jon Stead.

"We don't have time for them to be playing their way in and to be nervous. We have to evolve quickly," Platt said.

The match against the Dutch is the first of three friendlies before qualifying for the next Under-21 European Championship begins in September.

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