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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov, 9, 2006

Changes likely as England prepare to face Holland

Steve McClaren will deliver his own verdict on October's Euro 2008 qualifying disaster tomorrow when he names his England squad for the friendly with Holland in Amsterdam on November 15.

McClaren started his reign with three straight wins, but the wheels came off in spectacular fashion last month when a disappointing home draw with Macedonia was followed by a loss in Croatia when it was not so much the result as the abject performance which caused most distress.

The twin setback has placed a major question mark over England's hopes of reaching the finals of Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland and led to McClaren cancelling a planned fact-finding visit to Seattle.

Instead, McClaren has used the time to check the form of his senior stars, as well as some of the youngsters responsible for getting England to next summer's European Under-21 Championships.

A couple of changes appear certain. Tottenham's Aaron Lennon has now recovered from the ankle injury which kept him out of last month's double-header, while Andrew Johnson has overcome the hamstring injury which forced him to pull out of McClaren's squad and six goals for Everton this season should ensure his selection.

However, it will be interesting to see whether McClaren sticks with the bulk of his squad, particularly Stewart Downing, who publicly condemned the decision to axe him from the Croatia defeat following an ineffective performance against Macedonia.

In Zagreb, McClaren spoke of his intention to change both his approach and the personnel against the Dutch, indicating he would be looking very closely at members of the under-21 squad who were `knocking on the door' of senior selection.

That number could include Theo Walcott, even though the 17-year-old remains on the periphery of the Arsenal first team. Nigel Reo-Coker, Leighton Baines and Micah Richards could also come into consideration, along with goalkeeper Scott Carson, who may profit if Wigan's Chris Kirkland decides he does not want to travel as his wife is due to give birth to their first child.

Of the elder players who have yet to earn international recognition, Bolton skipper Kevin Nolan is the most talked-about, although Joey Barton's recent performances at Manchester City have also been impressive.

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate appeared pessimistic about Jonathan Woodgate's chances of a call-up recently and it is maybe too soon for the stylish defender to contemplate a first England cap in two-and-a-half years.

With a friendly, almost certainly against Spain, earmarked for February, McClaren has two games in which to rectify the problems he has unearthed before England head to Israel for another testing qualifier in March.

By then, as the four other main Group E hopefuls are all in competitive action next week, England could have dropped to as low as fourth in the table.

Should results in Israel and Macedonia go against England this week, it would also serve to further intensify the reaction should McClaren's men fail in Amsterdam.

For, while the coach's need to experiment is understandable, opposite number Marco van Basten appears to be taking the encounter very seriously as the Dutch look to prevent England recording their first win in their capital since 1969.

Of his post-World Cup group, from which Ruud van Nistelrooy has been exiled, Van Basten has excused only veteran goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar from national duty and even without the Manchester United star, Holland still have eight British-based players available, including Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie.

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