McClaren: Door open for England's young players
Steve McClaren has promised not to pull up the drawbridge to prevent England's Under-21s stars walking into the senior squad.
Following last month's dismal defeat in Croatia, McClaren hinted he might offer some of the youngsters responsible for getting England to next summer's European Under-21 Championships a chance to get involved in tomorrow night's friendly with Holland in Amsterdam.
In the end, McClaren included only 18-year-old Manchester City defender Micah Richards in his squad and has resisted the temptation to bring more new faces in despite suffering an amazing eight withdrawals.
But, with another friendly against Spain looming in February, McClaren insists the door has not been closed to the numerous talented young stars of the future who have already caught his eye.
'I am very excited by some of the young lads coming through from the Under-21s,' he said.
'You have to be careful about which games and get-togethers you bring them in for. It is all about timing.
'But I am looking forward to the emergence of lads like Leighton Baines, Gabriel Agbonlahor - who has really impressed me - and David Nugent.
'I am also looking forward to seeing Theo Walcott get more games and having the chance to prove what a good player he is.
'With those lads, it is all about potential. My job is about qualifying for the European Championships. That is what I am looking towards when I pick a squad.'
McClaren's latest squad has been decimated by withdrawals, with Tottenham duo Aaron Lennon and Jermaine Jenas adding to the half dozen who were absent when England reported for duty in Watford on Sunday night.
The loss of Lennon is a particular blow as the pacy teenage winger had been earmarked for his first senior start by McClaren, who believed his direct running style could unsettle the Dutch defence.
Instead, the England coach must now decide whether to persevere with Steven Gerrard on the right flank, even though the Liverpool captain dislikes the role, or give him the chance to prove a central midfield partnership with Frank Lampard can be effective.
The latter option is likely to see Shaun Wright-Phillips begin his first England game for 13 months even though he has started just twice for Chelsea this season, a situation McClaren concedes is hardly ideal.
'The fact Shaun is not getting many games for Chelsea is a concern,' said McClaren.
'I like Shaun. He is quick and he can penetrate. He is a great player to have in the squad.
'But all players need to play to get form and momentum. I speak to Jose Mourinho quite often. He wants to give Shaun more games but obviously, he has other priorities.'
After having his honeymoon period brought to an abrupt end last month when England followed their disappointing home draw with Macedonia with that dreadful defeat to Croatia, which raised major question marks over qualification for Euro 2008, McClaren may have wished for easier friendly opposition this week.
England have not beaten Wednesday's opponents in the Dutch capital since 1969 and although Robin van Persie has pulled out, Edwin van der Sar has asked not to be considered and Ruud van Nistelrooy continues to be overlooked, they will still provide a formidable test.
'It is a game I relish,' said McClaren.
'I would rather be playing this game than a lesser one.
'There is a history and tradition with these fixtures. They are always exciting games and usually very close but we realise it will be very difficult.'