LONDON, Feb 28 — The lack of any experienced strikers for tomorrow’s friendly against Netherlands is no cause for concern, England’s caretaker manager Stuart Pearce said today.
Pearce picked five forwards for the Euro 2012 warm-up with Wayne Rooney, Darren Bent, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Fraizer Campbell in contention for the starting places.
However, Rooney — who has 73 caps and 28 goals for England — pulled out with a throat infection on Sunday while Bent was prevented from picking up his 13th cap when he was withdrawn after suffering a serious ankle injury playing for Aston Villa.
Pearce, in charge initially just for tomorrow’s match following Fabio Capello’s resignation, decided against calling up any replacements such as Tottenham Hotspur striker Jermain Defoe and said he was happy with the three strikers he has left.
Campbell, who has just returned to the Sunderland side after an 18-month injury layoff, is in the England squad for the first time while Sturridge has made one appearance as a substitute and Welbeck three. None of them have scored for England.
Asked if playing without an established international striker was a problem, Pearce replied: “We’re in the home run for the championship in the summer and we have to find out about one or two individuals who have been around the squad and this is a great opportunity to find out.
“To play against one of the favourites for the tournament in front of a full house is a fantastic opportunity and there is no one in the squad that I would fear putting on the football pitch, they wouldn’t be in the squad otherwise.”
Bent could miss June’s Euros, when England face France, Sweden and Ukraine, because of his injury while Rooney is suspended for the first two group games.
As well as Rooney and Bent withdrawing, right back Kyle Walker and midfielder Tom Cleverley also pulled out leaving 21 players fit for training at Wembley Stadium today.
One will be captain for the first game against the Dutch at Wembley since 1996.
Pearce declined to reveal who would take over from John Terry, injured for the friendly but stripped of the captaincy by the FA because of an impending racial abuse trial which prompted Capello’s departure earlier this month.
Pearce, who media reports expect to be replaced by Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp for the Euros, said he would name his captain tomorrow when he announced the team.
“It’s a format I have followed at club level and at Under-21 level and I don’t see it necessary to change it and so that’s where we are with the captaincy and the team selection,” he said.
Steven Gerrard is favourite to take the armband.
Pearce was in the side that beat the Dutch 4-1 during Euro 96 but laughed when asked what the current team might learn from that match.
“I don’t think they will learn a great deal, most of them probably weren’t even born at that stage,” he said.
“But I think we have to learn something from a side as good as the Dutch tomorrow. We have to go into the game being confident and we have to come out of the game with a feel-good factor and a decent result.
“We are testing ourselves against one of the best sides in Europe.” — Reuters