Redknapp denies banning youngsters from England duty

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The Independent Football

The Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has rejected suggestions the club will ban four of their top teenagers from playing for England in an under-19s tournament in France next week. A party of 20 players took part in a three-day under-19s training camp last week and Redknapp insisted Tottenham's players were involved.

Tottenham were understood to have queried the need for the Football Association to take Steven Caulker, Andros Townsend, Ryan Mason and Dean Parrett to the tournament.

But Redknapp said: "I had a word with the chairman and the kids were released. It's a great honour to play for your country and we wouldn't want to stop them from playing. It's important, whatever age group, whatever level, it's something you strive for. I have never stopped anyone from playing for their country. I always encourage that and this is no different. If they need the kids we will get it sorted out."

Redknapp's comments are clearly aimed at defusing any potential row between club and country. The players were part of a squad that trained at Warwick University and they are scheduled to depart for Normandy on 15 July.

The tournament begins three days later and England's group involves Austria, Holland and France with the top pair joining two from Italy, Spain, Portugal and Croatia in the semi-finals.

Sir Dave Richards, the chairman of Club England, wrote to all clubs last month pointing out that they wanted "to prioritise player release in the under-19s outside the competitive part of the season".

A fortnight ago, the FA's director of football development, Sir Trevor Brooking, said that "tournament experience would be fantastic", although he feared there were "three or four at clubs who want to take them on pre-season trips".

Blackburn's promising defender Phil Jones and Aston Villa's Nathan Delfouneso are also wanted by the FA for the tournament. Jones is already established in the Blackburn first team while Delfouneso is expected to stake a claim for a regular slot in Villa's starting line-up. The pair would miss over two weeks of their club's pre-season preparations if they travelled with England.

The Football Association have hailed the spirit of co-operation from Premier League clubs. "There has been a positive level of co-operation from clubs and the squad will meet up as planned on 12 July before departing for France later that week," said an FA spokesman.

The one player missing out who was expected to be called up is Jones. Yet that move is purely due to the influence of Stuart Pearce, who wants to include Jones in his squad for the under-21s international with Uzbekistan at Ashton Gate on 10 August, when Jack Rodwell and Jack Wilshere may also be involved.

"It's the best against the best and that has got to be better than a few pre-season games," said Brooking. "These tournaments are the only way to really benchmark our players. There really is no substitute for tournament football."