What is the thinking behind Pearce's youthful gamble?

Jack Pitt-Brooke ponders the inclusions and the omissions

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The Independent Online

The fact Stuart Pearce's first England squad is youthful is no surprise: Pearce is the manager of the Under-21s. But such selections as Fraizer Campbell instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are interesting. It is also unclear who will start against the Netherlands next Wednesday, or who is captain. So let's try to answer a few posers for Pearce.

How has the uncapped Fraizer Campbell come from nowhere?

Like all of the new additions, Campbell played for Pearce in the U21s. "He's got enthusiasm to run in behind defences, he's an improving striker," Pearce said. "He's given Sunderland a real lift. Martin O'Neill spoke very highly of him." Campbell has scored twice in five appearances for Sunderland since returning from a 16-month lay-off.

Who are the other main beneficiaries of Pearce's links to the Under-21s?

Tom Cleverley is the only other uncapped player, although he was picked for this friendly before it was postponed in August. Pearce said he had "been on the road with him to tournament football", and that the midfielder had "flourished" at Manchester United. The defender Micah Richards made his debut in 2006 but was not popular with Fabio Capello. Pearce said he has had "a smashing season".

Why such an inexperienced defence?

Six of Pearce's defenders – the ones who are not Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson – have 24 international starts between them. Pearce said he already knew about the more experienced centre-backs: "I wouldn't learn a [great] deal watching John Terry, Phil Jagielka or Joleon Lescott because we know what they can do." Phil Jones and Chris Smalling were centre-backs at the European Under-21 Championship last summer.

If he's gone for youth, why hasn't he picked Oxlade-Chamberlain?

Pearce said that when he pulls players from the U19s into the U21s, he has to be certain that they will play enough minutes. "I could have brought him in, played him 10 minutes, and there would have been a scrum from the media," he said of the Arsenal winger. "But his experience of 90 minutes in a qualifying match will serve him much better than being elevated and having a possible 10-minute cameo role here."

Who else nearly made it?

Andy Carroll is "rediscovering some form", Pearce said, but Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge and Campbell were picked ahead of him. Speaking of those players who stayed in the U21 squad, rather than move up to the seniors, Pearce said: "I could have quite comfortably put [Jordan] Henderson in the squad, Oxlade-Chamberlain, even Martin Kelly and maybe even Jack Butland."

Who will be the captain?

We don't know, but Pearce only mentioned one name and it was a surprise. "I went to Afghanistan just over a year ago and I was asked to give a talk to the troops, who were talking about leadership at the time," he said, identifying the most fundamental quality as "unselfishness". "That your team-mates know you're in this for their greater good rather than your own. I will attempt to pick a captain who I believe has that sort of respect in the other players' eyes." The one player he put up as an example? James Milner.

Awards shortlist

The Independent's sports writers have been honoured in the prestigious SJA British Sports Journalism Awards. Our chief sports writer James Lawton has been shortlisted again in the Sports Columnist category, and there is a first nomination for Jack Pitt-Brooke in the Young Sports Writer category. He will compete for the Ian Wooldridge Trophy. Brian Viner was also nominated in the Sports Interviewer category, and Richard Wilson as Regional Sports Writer.

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