Stuart Pearce believes England’s young players need to be exposed to tournament football if they are to flourish at senior level.
Pearce will take charge of the senior squad for Wednesday’s friendly with Holland at Wembley, but he will also be paying particular attention to the Under 21 international with Belgium being played in Middlesbrough a couple of hours before.
As Under 21 coach, Pearce’s interest is obvious in a match which will also help provide pointers for the Olympic squad he will name later this year.
Although interest in that tournament has so far been lukewarm, the consensus within the Football Association is that it provides a heaven-sent opportunity for Under-23s to get invaluable tournament experience.
Pearce said: “I am forever barking on about how our best young players should be going to tournaments, even if they have a clutch of senior caps and even if there is a clamour for them not to go.
“Spain turned up against us in the European Under-21 Championships last summer and, in Juan Mata and Javier Martinez, had two players with World Cup winners’ medals. They as individuals wanted to go.
Pearce has also indicated that Manchester City midfielder James Milner could be a contender to take on the England captaincy against Holland.