LONDON: Micah Richards is back in favour with England – at least as far as caretaker Stuart Pearce is concerned – for the Wembley friendly against Holland on February.
Richards, after a bright start to his international career, fell badly out of favour with departed manager Fabio Capello but he is one of the most interesting selections in a youthful 25-man squad for the first of England’s three warm-up games for the Euro 2012 finals.
Pearce said: “He’s got a great opportunity to come in and impress,” though he has also selected tough competition for rightback with Tottenham’s Kyle Walker and Liverpool’s Glen Johnson also included.
Under-21s boss Pearce has yet to make a decision about the captaincy. Deposed John Terry was injured and unavailable in any case and Pearce said that he would wait until just before the Holland match and see how the squad evolved in training before the game.
Neither Rio Ferdinand nor Frank Lampard have been selected, although the presence of Steven Gerrard suggests the Liverpool man could be a favourite. Pearce pointed out that, while some of the senior players were overlooked because they have nothing to prove, Gerrard had not been involved with England for almost a year because of injuries.
Pearce was given free rein to select the players he wants and perhaps the most surprising ‘arrival’ is Sunderland striker Fraizer Campbell after suffering so many injuries during his time on Wearside. The former Manchester United man now joins Wayne Rooney, Darren Bent, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge as the strikers.
In addition to Campbell, the only other uncapped member of his squad is Manchester United’s Tom Cleverly, although he was selected for the squad to play Holland in August, a match which was postponed, and the subsequent Euro 2012 qualifiers with Bulgaria and Wales.
This will be the first time England have played Holland at Wembley since the outstanding 4-1 victory under Terry Venables in the group stage of Euro 96 – when Pearce was one of the players.
Pearce did not rule himself out of consideration to take England on to the European finals in Poland and Ukraine.
He said: “I’m available, and I have tournament experience, if they need me to step into the breach in the summer. That is obviously a decision for the employees here. They know exactly where I am. I’ve not fluffed around it, I’ve not turned around and said, ‘I’m not sure what I want to do.’ They know exactly what I want to do. If they need me to take the squad in the summer I’ll do that with pleasure.
“If they need me to coach a manager that’s coming through the door, I’ll do that with pleasure as well. Beyond that, at this moment in time, I consider myself, after the summer, as the Team GB manager and Under-21 manager.”
Squad: Scott Carson (Bursaspor), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Robert Green (West Ham United), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Leighton Baines (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Micah Richards (Manchester City), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur), Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Adam Johnson (Manchester City), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), James Milner (Manchester City), Scott Parker (Tottenham Hotspur), Ashley Young (Manchester United), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Darren Bent (Aston Villa), Fraizer Campbell (Sunderland), Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United).