JORDAN Henderson has been called into the England Under-21 squad for their first fixture of 2011 as manager Stuart Pearce begins preparations for this summer’s European Championship Finals.
The Sunderland midfielder is part of a 23-man squad which includes three new faces – Burnley forward Jay Rodriguez, Southampton winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Middlesbrough left-back Joe Bennett – all bound for Empoli in Tuscany for next Tuesday’s game against Italy.
England also have warm-up games in Denmark on March 24 and Iceland at Preston four days later.
Henderson, who made his debut for the senior England side in November, is likely to be an important player in the tournament which England – currently ranked number one in Europe – will hope to win.
Pearce will travel to Italy without the likes of Jack Wilshere and the injured Danny Welbeck, Danny Rose, Michael Mancienne, Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones, but the squad still has a strong look to it as Pearce looks to whittle his squad down to a final 23.
He said: “The good thing is that so many of the squad are now playing regular first-team football because that’s important and earlier this season maybe less than half of our squad were playing every week.
“Now nearly everyone is turning out in the Premier League or Championship on a Saturday afternoon – Daniel Sturridge has played in a number of games for Chelsea, but hasn’t had a lot of minutes, so his move to Bolton is very important, Martin Kelly is playing regularly at Liverpool, James Tomkins has had a long run in the West Ham side and is back in for the first time in over a year while Fabian Delph returns to the side, too, so we have a strong group of players.”
ENGLAND UNDER-21 SQUAD: Fielding (Blackburn), Loach (Watford), Steele (Middlesbrough); Bennett (Middlesbrough), Gibbs (Arsenal), Kelly (Liverpool), Richards (Manchester City), Smalling (Manchester United), Tomkins (West Ham), Walker (Tottenham); Albrighton (Aston Villa), Cork (Chelsea), Delph (Aston Villa), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Southampton), Henderson (Sunderland), Lansbury (Arsenal), Muamba (Bolton), Rodwell (Everton), Sinclair (Swansea); Delfouneso (Aston Villa), Rodriguez (Burnley), Sturridge (Chelsea).