England youngsters are better off on loan than on bench, says Pearce

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The Independent Football

Stuart Pearce has seen the benefit of his England Under-21 squad developing on loan in lower divisions but he feels the Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger knows the best route for Theo Walcott.

Walcott will be back at St Mary's tonight with the Under-21s, two years after a move from Southampton that helped him earn World Cup selection but not a regular place in Wenger's team. However, despite a host of his squad being helped by short-term moves, and suggestions that Walcott would also benefit, Pearce has faith in how Wenger manages his player.

"Without a doubt it [going on loan] helps," said Pearce, whose youngsters should seal a place in the play-offs for the 2009 European Championship with victory over the Republic of Ireland in Southampton. "It all adds to their experience. If they're not playing at their individual clubs, maybe that might be a route they take.

"I think the main driver they need is to get in there and play first-team football as much as they possibly can. That applies to anybody but there's one man who will know what's best for Theo and that's Arsène.

"It's in his interest to make sure that he's got a fantastic young player, who is extremely young at this moment in time, that's got good experience – bear in mind he's been to a World Cup."

Aaron Lennon is expected to start for the Under-21s after being left out of Fabio Capello's first senior squad. Tom Huddlestone, his Tottenham team-mate, feels fitter under Juande Ramos' regime at Spurs and has shed weight since the Spaniard's arrival in October. "The first thing the manager said when he came in was that he didn't think we were fit enough," he added. "We're training harder. We don't get many days off and I think that's shown in our performances recently."