Players may swerve U21s - RH
Roy Hodgson says it may be difficult persuading some of England's youngsters to drop to Under-21 level for the European Championship play-offs. With a two-legged play-off against Serbia to plan for, Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce has expressed the hope some of his star men will be released from seniors duty against San Marino and Poland to maximise the chances of reaching next year's European Championship finals in Israel. Specifically, Pearce is looking at goalkeeper Jack Butland and defender Kyle Walker, both of whom were chosen in Hodgson's squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine last week but did not play. In addition, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also eligible, although the Arsenal man did feature in both of last week's senior matches. Hodgson has already made it perfectly clear any player he needs will not be released. But he has also questioned the desire of players to drop down a level after making their big breakthrough for the Three Lions. "I don't have hard and fast views," said Hodgson. "I will listen to his (Pearce's) ideas and what he would like and make decisions accordingly. "But there is no doubt once a player is playing regularly for the senior national team, it is never easy to suggest he should go back and play for the Under-21s." In speaking in such non-committal terms about Stoke duo Michael Owen and Peter Crouch, Hodgson gives every indication of being happy to persevere with Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge. With Wayne Rooney sidelined by a gashed thigh, the pair shouldered striking responsibilities with Jermain Defoe, and both impressed at different stages as England collected four points from their opening two games. Rooney should be back for next month's fixtures, but Andy Carroll will not be meaning Welbeck and Sturridge will be required by Hodgson once more. And with Oxlade-Chamberlain also viewed as part of Hodgson's set-up now, Pearce may end up being disappointed. "I don't know yet what players he is thinking of and what importance they would have in my thinking for the next two games," he said. "We were short for this one, 10 senior players, and that is without talking about the (Chris) Smallings, the (Phil) Jones and (Jack) Wilsheres. "I am not getting drawn into a debate but I am stating the obvious when I say that if I think we need them, that is where they will be."
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