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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 1, 2007

Young part of England's future - McClaren

Steve McClaren feels Ashley Young's involvement with the England squad over the next 10 days will form an essential part of his footballing education.

The Aston Villa youngster was the surprise choice in McClaren's 26-man squad for the crucial Euro 2008 double-header with Israel and Russia.

Even if, as expected, Frank Lampard pulls out with a thigh injury sustained in training with Chelsea yesterday, Young is unlikely to figure in the next two games.

But, after impressing during England's run to the European Under-21 Championship semi-finals in the summer and maintaining that good form at Villa during the early weeks of the domestic campaign, McClaren feels it is time to expose the 22-year-old to an even higher level of intensity.

'We have to win in the short term but I am also looking to the long term,' said McClaren.

'It is no good us qualifying for the European Championships then finding ourselves with one friendly next year to look at players.

'Those players who do have potential, we need to see them early. We want them to be involved in squads as quickly as possible.

'We might not see Ashley Young play over the 10 days, but we can see his quality, his character and his reaction. That will give us an indication of his future.'

While McClaren will keep a keen eye on Young, his most important concern is that no mor injuries affect his planning for next Saturday's Wembley showdown with Israel.

If Lampard is ruled out, he would join David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Gary Neville on the sidelines, major blows to a team fourth in Group E which knows only a massive points haul from a five-match run-in that includes four games at Wembley will be enough to squeeze them through.

The importance of victory next Saturday means McClaren will be prepared to play hard-ball with Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez over the availability of Steven Gerrard.

Benitez pulled Gerrard out of last week's friendly defeat to Germany even though he played for his club against Chelsea four days earlier after an injection to numb the pain from his broken toe.

McClaren and Gerrard were willing accomplices in that move but clearly it will not work again, with England's influential vice-captain stressing his desire to pull on the white shirt again next weekend.

'Steven Gerrard is a strong enough character to indicate to me that he wants to play in the next two games for England,' said McClaren.

'If there is a risk, we will liaise with Rafa but the decisions will be made by the player, ourselves and the medical team.

'When it comes to friendlies, there is a certain amount of flexibility but now we are into the qualifiers and the whole country wants us to be in Switzerland and Austria next summer.

'He did play against Chelsea a couple of weeks ago and I am very confident he will be available next week. He knows how important he is to our team. We need him.'

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