England caretaker manager Stuart Pearce has said that he is ready to lead the country into the UEFA European Championship after naming a youthful squad for next week's friendly with the Netherlands.
Pearce was appointed to take charge of England for the Wembley international following the shock resignation of Fabio Capello earlier this month, but is not regarded as a long-term option for the post. However, with the Football Association yet to make a formal approach to Tottenham's Harry Redknapp, Pearce confirmed Thursday he would be willing to take charge of England at this summer's finals in Poland and Ukraine.
"I'm available and I have tournament experience if they need me to step into the breach in the summer," Pearce told reporters. "If they need me to take the squad in the summer I will do that with pleasure."
Pearce, who is coach of England's U-21 team and who will manage Britain's football team at the Olympics, also defended his decision to omit veterans such as Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand from next week's match. "My mentality was what would I need to learn as a manager going into a major tournament and what would the next manager coming through the door need to learn from next Wednesday," Pearce said.
"I know Frank, Rio and some of the other senior players I don't think I would learn anything watching them play next Wednesday. But I might learn something from watching some of the younger players. We are on the home run for the tournament and it's important we get young faces in and see if they can handle a game of this magnitude."
Sunderland striker Fraizer Campbell was the shock inclusion of Pearce's 25-strong squad, which also saw a recall to the international fold of Manchester City's in-form full-back Micah Richards, largely ignored by Capello. "I know Fraizer quite well because the heads-up I've got is I've taken the majority of these boys to under-21 tournaments. He was fantastic on the road with us at under-21 level," Pearce said.
"He's come back into the Sunderland side and given them a real lift. I spoke to Martin (O'Neill) about him at a game a few days ago and he spoke very highly of him. He's worked fantastically well to get back from the injury he's had. He's an exciting talent. I think he'll thrive by coming into this environment."
Pearce meanwhile said he was looking forward to reuniting with Richards, who he had nurtured during his spell as Manchester City manager. "I gave him his debut as a club player," Pearce said. "He's done well this year. I think he's had a smashing season. It will be interesting for him and his mentality coming back to the squad. He's got a great opportunity to come back here and impress."
However there was no place for Arsenal teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has impressed in his club displays this season. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, meanwhile, is in line to make his first appearance for England since 2010 after being included among the midfielders.
Gerrard is widely expected to regain the captain's armband but Pearce declined to be drawn on the issue on Thursday. "The exposure has been a little too excessive," Pearce said when asked about the focus on the captaincy issue. "I will look at the dynamism of the group and pick a player who I and the group respect."