Pearce defends decision to call up Wilshere for Under-21 finals

Stuart Pearce has included Jack Wilshere in his squad for next month's European Under-21 Championship, saying that excluding the Arsenal player would be "silly".

Along with the 19-year-old midfielder, Pearce named five other players with senior caps in his 40-man provisional list yesterday.

Wilshere, with four senior caps, is joined by recent full internationals Andy Carroll, Danny Welbeck, Jordan Henderson, Micah Richards and Kieran Gibbs. The Arsenal midfielder has a stronger hold on his place in the senior side than the others, though, leading to debate over his suitability for an Under-21 competition.

Pearce was firm yesterday in his defence of Wilshere's inclusion. "I've been involved in football a long time," he said, "but I've never actually seen a team that gets to a final then decides to drop their best players. I think that's quite silly. I certainly think football's about gaining experience at whatever level you have to play, and when I look back over the previous winners of the Under-21 tournament over maybe the last 15 years, all of those winners, if you look a couple of years further on, their national sides at senior level have done particularly well. You have to be successful at these younger age groups to have any chance at senior level."

The inclusion of Wilshere in this summer's squad has been one of this season's longest-running controversies. He is now a member of the senior England side and started both of the recent internationals against Wales in Cardiff and Ghana at Wembley.

HIs club manager at Arsenal, Arsène Wenger, has repeatedly expressed his opposition to Wilshere's participation, saying that players do not benefit from dropping back down from senior to youth teams after having made the step up.

Wenger has long accepted that he cannot stop Wilshere from going to the tournament in Denmark next month. He has said, however, that if Wilshere features then the player's required summer break will have to be postponed. This, in turn, will prevent his playing for the senior England side in the friendly against the Netherlands in August and may even jeopardise his involvement in the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Wales the following month. There is also a qualifier against Switzerland on 4 June, eight days before the Under-21s' first match. Wilshere is expected to play in both.

Pearce's 40-man list will be reduced down to 23 by 1 June, four days before England play their final pre-tournament friendly against Norway. England's first game is against Spain in Herning on 12 June. They will play Ukraine in Herning three days after that before taking on Czech Republic in Viborg on 19 June.

Provisional England Under-21 squad

Goalkeepers

Frank Fielding (Blackburn), Scott Loach (Watford), Jason Steele (Middlesbrough), Alex McCarthy (Reading).

Defence

Joe Bennett (Middlesbrough), Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Phil Jones (Blackburn), Michael Mancienne (Chelsea), Ben Mee (Man City), Kyle Naughton (Tottenham), Micah Richards (Man City), Chris Smalling (Man Utd), James Tomkins (West Ham), Kieran Trippier (Man City), Kyle Walker (Tottenham).

Midfield

Marc Albrighton (Aston Villa), Jack Cork (Chelsea), Tom Cleverley (Man Utd), Mark Davies (Bolton), Adam Hammill (Wolves), Jordan Henderson (Sunderland), Jonathan Howson (Leeds Utd), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Henri Lansbury (Arsenal), Josh McEachran (Chelsea), Fabrice Muamba (Bolton), Jack Rodwell (Everton), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Scott Sinclair (Swansea), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).

Attack

Andy Carroll (Liverpool), Nathan Delfouneso (Aston Villa), Gary Hooper (Celtic), Jay Rodriguez (Burnley), Freddie Sears (West Ham), Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea), James Vaughan (Everton), Danny Welbeck (Man Utd), Connor Wickham (Ipswich Town).

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