Stuart Pearce has backed Wigan's Callum McManaman to shine for England Under-21s at next month's European Championships, although the pair face a nervous wait to discover the extent of the injury the player sustained against Arsenal.
Three days after his man-of-the-match performance in the Latics' FA Cup triumph against Manchester City, the winger's fine form has seen him rewarded with a first call-up by the Young Lions. But the 22-year-old had to be carried off the pitch on a stretcher at the Emirates Stadium during the 4-1 defeat which confirmed his club's relegation.
"I've made it my business over the last six weeks to have a real good look at Callum," said the under-21s boss, who worked with McManaman at the 2011 Under-20s World Cup in Colombia.
"I think he's finding his confidence now. He's been nurtured very well by Wigan. He's played so well and the culmination of that was a fantastic game in the final. That will do his self-esteem the world of good.
"We're pleased with his development and that happens with players. He came on the international scene a few years ago at under-20 level. Now he's found form at the right time - just before a major championship. I've seen fit to take him, even though he's not played under-21 football."
McManaman and Southampton left-back Luke Shaw are the only uncapped members of what is an experienced 23-man squad heading to Israel. Pearce is confident he possesses a squad capable of winning the competition and has tipped McManaman to perform.
McManaman was the stand-out inclusion in the 23-man squad, with Raheem Sterling the notable absentee.
The 18-year-old winger has shone for Liverpool this season but a thigh injury put paid to his hopes of going to Israel, with Manchester City's Jack Rodwell also missing.
"Raheem's had a thigh problem that he's been nursing for some time, and he's not played for Liverpool for the last six or seven weeks," Pearce told www.thefa.com.
"It's a real disappointment because his form for the under-21s of late has been outstanding. But if they're not fit, I can't pick them."