Early Doors

Third time lucky for Pearce’s boys?

Early Doors

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On the eve of the European U21 Championships, England manager Stuart Pearce is doing his best to back the players he has brought with him to Denmark - but can't help but lament the squad members denied him.

If you take into account Jordan Henderson's move to Liverpool (completed last night), Phil Jones's slated switch to Manchester United and Michael Mancienne's sale to Hamburg, not to mention the values slapped on the likes of Jack Rodwell, Connor Wickham and Danny Welbeck, then you are looking at a roster of players representing the FA worth getting on for £100 million.

Regardless of what sort of percentage of that figure you believe is accounted for simply by the fact they are English, and therefore more expensive on the transfer market, that is a significant sum.

And that is without Pearce being able to call upon Jack Wilshere and Andy Carroll (the latter of whom, lest we forget, is one of the 10 most expensive players of all time).

Pearce has been vocal in his disagreement over that duo's withdrawals, and reckons it could harm the prospects of the senior side in the future.

He said: "I've got a breakdown of all the nations telling me how many of their players have represented the seniors, and we've probably got the biggest number of absentees.

"We need to make sure that when we turn up to these tournaments the big players are here.

"We've got a lot of lessons to learn and the reason I say that is if you look at the trophy cabinet - it never lies."

He's not wrong. At the front of every programme for an England senior match there is a list of honours. There is a run-down of all the trophies they have won, comprising the 1966 World Cup, 1997's Le Tournoi (a warm-up competition ahead of France '98) and a smattering of Home Nations victories. In a lame bid to bolster that roll of dubious honour, also listed are the semi-final appearances at Italia '90 and Euro '96. Early Doors had never realised that you get a medal for finishing fourth at international level, but there you go.

England's opening match of the tournament is on Sunday against Spain. So that should be fine, then. It's not as though Spain have a recent track record of producing a swathe of world-class youngsters, is it? Oh...

Manager Luis Milla's squad includes World Cup winners Juan Mata and Javi Martinez, United target David de Gea in goal and Barcelona forward Bojan Krkic. Not only that, but there are also three of the brightest prospects in world football making the trip - Real Madrid's Sergio Canales, Barca's Thiago Alcantra and Athletic Bilbao's Iker Muniain.

And the Spanish certainly know a thing or two about dazzling at youth level tournaments, as this amazing penalty from Ezequiel Calvente at last year's U19 championship proves.

Still, despite boasting Nathan Delfouneso among their ranks, England are second favourites behind Spain and just ahead of Czech Republic, another of their Group B rivals.

After reaching the semi-finals in 2007 and being humbled 4-0 by Germany in the final two years later, will it be third time lucky for Pearce? If he can lead England to glory, despite missing some of his best players, it would certainly rank as a great achievement.

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Before we turn our attention to Denmark, however, all eyes will be on Aston Villa today, where Wigan manager Roberto Martinez will either be announced as Villa's new boss or sent away with a flea in his ear for wasting their time.

Wigan owner Dave Whelan was at pains to tell every media outlet going that Villa had been meticulous in ensuring their approach for Martinez was all above board. To be honest, he just sounded grateful to have someone to talk to.

As a result of Villa chief Paul Faulkner being such a nice, polite chap, Whelan let his man speak to them, but remains confident he will stay at the DW Stadium for a couple more years. Really?

Martinez, a coach who came within 90 minutes of relegation from the Premier League this season, must be struggling to contain his glee at the thought of making such an unlikely step up the managerial ladder. As he sits across the table from Lerner, negotiating the finer points of his contract and transfer budget, it must be all he can do to stop himself breaking into a jig at any moment.

Sure, Wigan is a well-run club that has treated him wonderfully, and Martinez seems to be one of the most instantly likeable and honest managers out there, but the prospect of leading a team out at a packed Villa Park every other week next season must be too much to resist.

Should, as expected, he be announced as Villa's new manager later today, there will be a tidal wave of goodwill for him. Let's hope he can deliver, otherwise those Villa fans whose message board rants led to Lerner ending his interest in Steve McClaren, who now looks set for a return to management in Holland, could be left to rue that snub.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "As far as I'm concerned I'm going to put this whole thing to bed and let Tracy get on (with her job as mascot). The Sunday Sport and a mascot designed for children is not an ideal mix...but it has become a storm in a tea cup and I hope to sort things out." - Doncaster Rovers chairman John Ryan has offered the woman who was sacked as the club's Donny Dog mascot her job back after she posed in lingerie for a photo shoot.

FOREIGN VIEW: "Last night we received the anti-doping analysis of 14 players of the 'Tri' (national team) that were done on May 21 and five players showed positive.  The substance for which they were positive is Clenbuterol. The players will be withdrawn from (coach) Jose Manuel de la Torre's team. We will make a request to the (tournament) organising committee to be able to replace the players since it is an exceptional case." - Decio de Maria, general secretary of the Mexican Football Federation, reveals that five players in the squad at the Concacaf Gold Cup have tested positive for a banned substance. Mexico have since said that they expect contaminated meat to be the cause of the failures.

COMING UP: Our patented live transfer window news ticker is already up and running, Jim White and Paul Parker will both be filing their latest blogs later today, and we will be revealing the results of our poll to find the Premier League's best ever right-back.

Plus, there will be live coverage of the quarter-finals at Queen's Club - with Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal both in action - and the first practice sessions ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix.

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