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By ESPN Staff
Nov 15, 2006

McClaren has faith in stuttering England stars

England coach Steve McClaren has dismissed allegations his present squad are nothing more than a bunch of failures.

McClaren's team tackle Holland in a friendly at the Amsterdam ArenA tonight anxious to prove last month's abject performances against Croatia and Macedonia were nothing more than a blip.

Having flopped so badly at the World Cup this summer, it is starting to become apparent to some that England are nowhere near as good as some believe them to be, with too many key men failing to reproduce their club form on the international stage.

Yet McClaren insists his players are capable of transferring their Premiership skills on to another level.

'I don't believe they consistently fail to produce, otherwise I would not pick them,' he said.

'If you asked any international manager, they would say exactly the same. You want to get players playing for their countries as they do for their club.

'It may take time but hopefully it will start to develop tomorrow. I cannot say we will never lose another football match again but I have faith in these players and I have faith in us qualifying (for Euro 2008).'

Although, within the 29 players he selected for tonight's clash in total, McClaren chose everyone who travelled to Zagreb last month, there are four notable changes to his starting line-up.

Steven Gerrard is back from suspension and back on the right-hand side of midfield, while Joe Cole will operate on the left flank after recovering from the knee injury that has kept him out of McClaren's five games in charge so far.

However, it is the inclusions of Micah Richards and Andrew Johnson which really catch the eye.

Richards has only started 23 Premiership games for Manchester City, yet McClaren has already seen enough in the 18-year-old to persuade him to make the Birmingham-born player the youngest defender to play for England.

'It is not how old you are, it is how good you are,' he said. 'Micah has come into the squad and it is as if he had been involved all the time.

'He is a very confident boy, as you need to be at this level and I have no hesitation in picking him. He has been given a chance and I hope he takes it.'

Meanwhile, Johnson is handed only his second international start as a partner for Wayne Rooney.

Having seen how well Rooney had adjusted to having a strong and quick striker alongside him at Manchester United in Louis Saha, McClaren believes Johnson can perform a similar role, even though deposed front-man Peter Crouch has an excellent strike rate of 11 goals in 16 appearances for his country.

'You see at club level when Wayne plays with Saha, he likes people running away from him,' observed McClaren. 'I am not saying he cannot play with Peter Crouch but Andrew is another option and something we need to look at.

'It was always difficult when he was playing in the Championship and joining up with the England squad.

'But he had a flying start at Everton and since he has come back into the England squad he looked a different player.'