Richards called up as McClaren plays safe

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The Independent Football

In football management, experimentation is either a luxury allowed to the truly successful, or the last resort of the desperate. Steve McClaren, in the wake of last month's miserable European Championship qualifiers, is clearly not the former, nor does he wish to appear the latter. His squad for Wednesday's friendly with the Netherlands in Amsterdam was thus largely predictable.

As was widely leaked, Micah Richards, the teenage Manchester City defender, makes the cut but the only other uncapped players are Ben Foster, of Watford, and Tottenham's Michael Dawson, who have featured previously. With Joe Cole, Aaron Lennon and Andrew Johnson all recalled after injury, and only Kieran Richardson dropped, the squad has swelled to 28 players. It is an unusual and unwieldy number for a friendly, especially as the squad will not meet up until Monday, and nine of the players will be unable to do anything but a warm-down then as they are in domestic action tomorrow.

Unless injuries to others intervene over the weekend, neither Richards, Foster nor Dawson are likely to start for McClaren, who needs both a result and a performance. After this match England do not play until February and it will be a cheerless winter for the head coach if they have another bad night.

Most interest will centre on who partners Wayne Rooney in attack and the composition of the midfield. Johnson, who infamously made his debut on the right-wing in England's last game against the Dutch, a dull scoreless draw in Birmingham in February 2005, could edge out Peter Crouch.

McClaren is expected to revert to 4-4-2 after the failed 3-5-2 experiment in Zagreb. This should involve a recall on the left for Joe Cole, while Michael Carrick and Scott Parker will contest the holding role in the continuing absence of Owen Hargreaves. Unless Lennon starts and Steven Gerrard moves inside.

The Dutch are in strong shape, unbeaten this season and leading their qualifying group. While McClaren is already enduring heavy criticism, Marco van Basten, his Dutch counterpart, has coped serenely with the refusal of Mark van Bommel and Ruud van Nistelrooy to play for him.

For this match he has rested Edwin van der Sar and called up two uncapped players, Evander Sno, of Celtic, and David Mendes da Silva. Sno, 19, received the call after PSV Eindhoven's Ibrahim Afellay, who has Dutch and Moroccan nationality, told Van Basten he need more time to decide his future.

England have not beaten the Dutch since the 4-1 triumph at Wembley in Euro'96. McClaren will hope having the architect of that night, Terry Venables, alongside him in the dugout ensures some of the magic rubs off.

England: Goalkeepers: Robinson (Tottenham), Kirkland (Wigan), Foster (Watford). Defenders: G Neville (Man Utd), P Neville (Everton), Richards (Man City), Ferdinand (Man Utd), Terry (Chelsea), King (Tottenham), Carragher (Liverpool), Brown (Man Utd), Dawson (Tottenham), A Cole (Chelsea), Bridge (Chelsea). Midfielders: Lennon (Tottenham), Wright-Phillips (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool), Lampard (Chelsea), Carrick (Man Utd), Parker (Newcastle), Jenas (Tottenham), J Cole (Chelsea), Downing (Middlesbrough). Forwards: Rooney (Man Utd), Crouch (Liverpool), Defoe (Tottenham), D Bent (Charlton), Johnson (Everton).

Netherlands: Goalkeepers: Timmer (Feyenoord), Stekelenburg (Ajax). Defenders: Emanuelson (Ajax), Jaliens (AZ Alkmaar), Mathijsen (Hamburg), Ooijer (Blackburn), Van Bronckhorst (Barcelona), Boulahrouz (Chelsea). Midfielders: Sneijder (Ajax), Schaars (AZ Alkmaar), Landzaat (Wigan), Van der Vaart (Hamburg), Maduro (Ajax), Da Silva (AZ Alkmaar), Sno (Celtic). Forwards: Huntelaar (Ajax), Van Persie (Arsenal) Kuyt (Liverpool), Vennegoor of Hesselink (Celtic), Robben (Chelsea).

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