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By ESPN Staff

Pearce backs 'maturing' Barton for England call

Stuart Pearce insists Joey Barton would not be a disruptive influence on the England squad.

Barton is hoping for his first call-up to the international scene when Steve McClaren announces his squad for next week's friendly with Spain at Old Trafford later today.

After giving the Manchester City midfielder a glowing reference just before Christmas, confirming he twice tried to buy the 24-year-old, McClaren is giving serious consideration to handing Barton a call-up.

McClaren is willing to cast aside past disciplinary problems if he decides Barton's feisty attitude is required.

And while Pearce admits the Huyton-born player rarely wastes an opportunity to speak his mind, he is certain Barton is no trouble-maker.

'Joey would not disrupt any squad,' he said.

'He does not disrupt mine, he is a good member of it.

'On occasion he speaks his mind but I do not have a problem with that. I think over the last 18 months I have seen a general maturity in him as a player and a man.

'If he is picked Joey will bring drive, energy and the ability to score a goal. If he is not selected then he will have to keep doing what he has been over the last few weeks and months to put more pressure on the England manager.'

Unfortunately for Barton, none of the injury worries affecting McClaren's preparations are in his preferred position of central midfield.

While the City man is sweating on a place, Middlesbrough's Jonathan Woodgate seems certain to be involved for the first time since 2004.

Woodgate has been growing in confidence since his return to England from Real Madrid and with Wes Brown lacking extended match practice at Manchester United recently and skipper John Terry, who is set to be included, hardly regarded as fully fit after so long on the sidelines with a long-standing back complaint, an opening to partner Rio Ferdinand at some point is waiting.

McClaren already knows he will definitely be without two of his starting line-up from the Amsterdam trip now Ashley Cole has joined Chelsea team-mate Joe on the sidelines with a serious-looking knee injury.

Ashley Cole's place will almost certainly go to Stamford Bridge colleague Wayne Bridge, who has not started an international for almost 12 months, while Newcastle's Kieron Dyer, whose own injury troubles have cost him two years' worth of England action, may be the man to replace Joe Cole.

With Andrew Johnson only an outside bet to recover from an ankle injury in time to play for Everton in tomorrow's Merseyside derby at Anfield, McClaren must decide whether to ditch the three-man striking formation he used in Holland, which featured Wayne Rooney at its tip, even though Aaron Lennon should be available.