Pearce not afraid to stoke club versus country row

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The Independent Online

Stuart Pearce is determined to take the likes of Theo Walcott and Gabriel Agbonlahor to the European Under-21 Championships next summer – even if it stokes up further club-versus-country conflict.

Walcott and Agbonlahor could be involved with the senior England side's World Cup qualifiers at the start of June, but Pearce says he will have no hesitation in calling them into Under-21 action for the tournament in Sweden as well.

Speaking on the eve of the Under-21s' friendly against the Czech Republic at Bramall Lane, Pearce said: "The most important thing for me is for England to win a trophy. It would be folly for me to go there with a lesser squad. England have not won a great deal at any level for many, many years and if we leave our best players at home, we are not going to.

"The players have been happy to step up and step down and I think the players themselves will vote with their feet. It might suit club managers [for players not to go], they know the player will be rested and not get injured. My job is to make sure the country that I love is successful.

"My support would be unwavering even if I walked out and worked for a club. So don't ask me to have sympathy with somebody else who has the impression we should not back the national side, I can't understand that."

Pearce believes there is no reason why players should not be in the senior squad and also join up with the Under-21s for the tournament. He said: "There are no senior games when that tournament is on. Their last game is on June 10 and the tournament doesn't start until the 15th or 16th."

Everton striker James Vaughan has been called into the squad to face the Czechs after Blackburn's Matt Derbyshire withdrew with a groin injury.

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