Pearce hails fantastic Sterling displays

England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce had praised teenage winger Raheem Sterling and admits he would like to see more young, home-grown talent breaking into sides.

Football News: Raheem Sterling of England

Sterling, 18, has been one of Liverpool's most impressive players during a difficult start to the season for the Anfield club.

He will now be in with a chance of making his under-21 debut in the European Championship play-off against Serbia at Carrow Road on Friday.

Roy Hodgson added Sterling to his senior squad for the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine to gain experience and Pearce is pleased to have his precocious talent as part of his squad for the two-legged tie with Serbia.

"He has had a fantastic start to the season," he said.

"He has been in our development age groups prior to this season and he had the fortunate opportunity to be with the seniors last time out and he has come in now and has got the opportunity to vie for a place with the Under-21s.

"He has fit in really well to be fair, he will bring the confidence he has got and that Brendan (Rodgers, Liverpool boss) has given him - he has got his tail up at the moment and looks a real handful."

The lack of young English players being given exposure has been increasingly apparent in recent years but, although Pearce revealed he would like to see more players being blooded, he believes there are some notable exceptions.

"We would prefer more young players breaking into their teams, there is no doubt about that," he said.

"But when you look at Liverpool there is (Jonjo) Shelvey, Andre Wisdom has just got in the team recently, Raheem has got into the team.

"There are one or two players that are being given the opportunity to break into their teams, Jack (Rodwell) has just moved clubs, he has a lot of experience in games at Everton but now has another challenge ahead of him to break into Man City's team and play consistently there."

Rodwell, 21, is now one of the most experienced members of Pearce's party having accrued 20 Under-21 caps while making two appearances for the senior side.

The former Everton midfielder reckons his move to the Premier League champions is already starting to have a positive effect on his performances.

"I think it can only help, I had been at Everton for all of my career so moving to Man City has helped me mature," he said.

"So if I can bring some of that maturity and experience to the side then that is great."

The next generation of young players making the step up to Under-21 level have been impressing Rodwell, who now considers himself an elder statesman.

He said: "I have been around the Under-21s for a while now so I see myself as a senior player and it is good to see the younger lads coming through."

"I have been really impressed with them, especially Raheem, he is looking really lively on the training field and is really quick so he is an exciting talent."

Pearce confirmed Liverpool defender Wisdom returned to his club due to an existing shoulder injury whilst Manchester United's Nick Powell has been ruled out of making his debut at this level due to illness.

Added to the withdrawals of Henri Lansbury and Nathaniel Clyne on Thursday, as well as Ryan Bertrand and Shelvey being moved to the senior squad, it means Pearce's original squad is now looking more depleted - although Liverpool full-back Jack Robinson has been drafted in.

Despite the injury setbacks Pearce will be targeting victory in both legs to achieve qualification for next year's Under-21 European Championships, even though Serbia were unbeaten in their qualifying group.

He said: "I think anyone at this stage of the tournament is really, really tough. Defensively they are very strong - it won't be won or lost on Friday evening I'm sure, it'll go over two legs and it will be tight.

"I think we will go out and try and win both games, I'm sure Serbia will as well. From our point of view we are the home side first and will endeavour to win the match, but we will when are on the road as well to be honest."

The return leg will take place in Krusevac on Tuesday evening with the winner advancing to next year's finals in Israel.



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