Pearce says play-off could keep Wilshere from full England duty

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The Independent Football

Jack Wilshere may remain with Stuart Pearce's England Under-21 team for next Tuesday's European Championship play-off second leg, the manager admitted yesterday ahead of tonight's first leg at Carrow Road against Romania.

The Arsenal midfielder has also been included in the senior group for Tuesday's Euro 2012 qualifying tie against Montenegro at Wembley but the 18-year-old could yet be retained by Pearce for his return match in Botosani. "Jack has been named in the Under-21 and the senior squad and I will talk with [England manager] Fabio Capello with respect to that," said Pearce. "I would have thought the best decision is to wait until Friday pans itself out.

"Obviously, if Fabio needs him the seniors take precedence, but if he feels he can stop with us to get another 90 minutes' worth of experience on Tuesday then he will. But we will do what is best for the player."

Pearce has also insisted that his priority is reaching the Euros, not auditioning to succeed Capello. The Italian will step down when his contract expires in summer 2012 but Pearce says he lacks the experience to step up to the top job.

The FA is searching for an English manager to replace Capello but in terms of club management Pearce, 48, has had only a two-year stint in charge of Manchester City, which ended in May 2007. He has done well with the Under-21s, taking them to the final of the 2009 European Championship and he now works closely with Capello. However, for the moment, getting a positive result from tonight's first leg is top of his agenda.

"At this moment in time I feel I don't have enough experience. I enjoy what I do, being in charge of the Under-21s and having the experience with the senior squad," Pearce said. "That experience is getting enhanced day by day. In a year's time I will be a better manager, that's for sure. The one thing I can assure you is that the words long-term and football don't seem to go hand in hand these days. If I am still in charge of the Under-21s tomorrow night I will be delighted."

Other than the players who were forced out of the squad through injury – Manchester City defender Micah Richards, Huddersfield goalkeeper Alex Smithies and Arsenal full-back Kieran Gibbs – Pearce has no fresh injury concerns.

Carrow Road is a 25,700 sell-out, which represents the highest attendance there since it became all-seater in 1992. Pearce believes the atmosphere will lift his players. "That is part of the reason we took the game to Norwich," he said. "When we have come here before we have had crowds in excess of 20,000.

"It is a 50/50 game. They have won their group and we have finished runners-up," he said. "Romania are one of the strongest sides in Europe."

England (probable team,4-4-2): Loach (Watford); Kelly (Liverpool), Jones (Blackburn), Smalling (Manchester United), Walker (Tottenham); Albrighton (Aston Villa), Cleverley (Man United), Muamba (Bolton), Wilshere (Arsenal); Welbeck (Man United), Sturridge (Chelsea).

TV ESPN, 7.30.

Three key men for England U-21s

Chris Smalling

The Greenwich-born defender may have only turned professional two years ago, but his ability has become clear for all to see, tall and commanding in the air. It is not hard to understand why Manchester United spent £10m to secure his services from Fulham.

Jack Wilshere

Already capped at senior level and also named in the full England squad this week, the 18-year-old is one of the most talented young English prospects of recent years. He has cemented his place in the Arsenal side this season with some mature displays and at his best has been compared to a young Cesc Fabregas.

Daniel Sturridge

The striker impressed at times while at Manchester City, but has began to fulfil his promise since moving to Chelsea. He replaced Didier Drogba in the second half against his former club and this may not be overstating the young forward's potential. Likes to create space for the midfielders behind him with his probing runs.

Benji Inwood