England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce laid his cards on the table after Monday night's 2-1 friendly defeat against Iceland by declaring he must be allowed to take his best players to the European Championship in Denmark this summer.
Pearce picked a below-strength team for the game at Preston and, although Nathan Delfouneso gave the hosts a 13th-minute lead, Iceland came back strongly and won the game with a goal from West Ham youngster Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson.
The former England left-back insisted it was his decision to release the likes of Chris Smalling, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge following Thursday's 4-0 win over Denmark, but he will not be making similar concessions in the summer. That would mean the likes of the Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere and Liverpool striker Andy Carroll, who are both now regulars in the senior side, being part of the squad.
Pearce's stance is likely to be unpopular with the players' clubs, although he has confirmed he will not consider Wilshere's Arsenal club-mate Theo Walcott, who was included in the party for the same tournament two years ago. Pearce said: "Jack's been in this squad, he helped the squad qualify for the finals, and I know how good he is. The same with Andy Carroll, who's played three or four matches at this level. We would look slightly amateurish if we decide to leave our best players at home because we generate this myth that we play more football than anybody else, and all of a sudden maybe Spain turn up in our group and they might have a World Cup winner in their ranks. That would look rather silly, I think."
Explaining his decision not to consider Walcott, Pearce added: "We feel as though he's had enough experience and deem him as a senior player, so I won't view him for the tournament this summer."
Iceland, who will be in the opposite group to England at the European Championship, benefited from two defensive mistakes and Pearce felt his players lost their concentration.
He said: "We got our noses in front with a very good goal and then we got complacent. I don't think you can afford to do that at any level, especially international level.
"But, as I told the players, two years ago we got beaten by the French 2-0 at Nottingham Forest – and it was two going on six or seven if I'm honest – and it acted as a real wake-up call for us. We'll have to use tonight as a similar wake-up call."