Pearce gets backing in Under-21 row

ENGLAND’S latest captain Gareth Barry has backed Stuart Pearce and Fabio Capello in the brewing club-versus-country row over this summer’s Under-21 European Championships.

Under-21 manager Pearce has vowed to name his strongest possible squad for the tournament, which is likely to mean call-ups for senior stars such as Jack Wilshere and Andy Carroll. England boss Capello has confirmed he endorses the stance, even though it risks upsetting club managers who would rather their players enjoyed a rare break during the close season.

And Barry, who will skipper the side in tonight’s friendly against Ghana, said: “For the development and the good of England then they should be out there playing. It’s always going to be a sticky situation. There are always reasons why they shouldn’t. But I’m sure if you speak to the players they’ll be wanting to play as much football as they can.”

Wilshere has stated his desire to play for the Under-21s in Denmark this summer, putting him on collision course with his club manager, Arsene Wenger. The Arsenal chief was unhappy at Pearce’s selection of Theo Walcott for the same competition two years ago when the winger, like Wilshere, was already also playing for the senior team.

Walcott could in theory be called up again, while other Premier League stars likely to be picked by Pearce include Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge, who has shone on loan at Bolton, and Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck, on loan at Sunderland.

Capello yesterday reiterated his support for Pearce’s policy, despite himself attempting to smooth relations with top clubs by releasing several senior players ahead of this evening’s clash at Wembley with the Black Stars. “Yes, I will support him 100 per cent because I think the players will be really important for the Under-21s,” he said. “Those players can make the difference.”