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Belgium await UEFA decision on Euro 2020

By ESPN Staff

England debutant Bentley shrugs off boos

David Bentley has defended the decision which ensured he got a cool welcome from Wembley on his England debut, insisting: 'I was doing the right thing for my career.'

Bentley pulled out of Stuart Pearce's England Under-21 squad for the European Championships in the summer citing fatigue after a long season with Blackburn.

It was a decision that did not go down well with Pearce, or senior boss Steve McClaren who refused to consider the midfielder for the friendly defeat to Germany as a one-off punishment.

And when he finally did earn his England debut in the 3-0 qualifying win over Israel, the fans made their feelings known with a chorus of boos.

But Bentley, 23, insists he has no regrets.

He said: 'I thought it was coming. To be honest, it was probably good entertainment if you're not on the receiving end.

'But I was there making my England debut so I'm not worried about anyone else.

'I've made a lot of strong decisions in my career, like whether to leave Arsenal and also with the decision not to go to the Under-21s.

'I've never, ever regretted it.

'A lot of people had a go at me but I knew I was doing the right thing for my career, for Blackburn and for my England career. I think Saturday proved that.'

Bentley also believes his willingness to make unpopular decisions will stand him in good stead throughout his England career.

'I reckon you have to be a strong person, a strong character to make it as an international. We need strong characters in the England team,' he added.

'Those decisions make you stronger as a person and as a player and what happened at Wembley will only make me stronger. But I loved it. It was brilliant and I'm still buzzing.'

Bentley went on to explain that his decision to drop out of the Under-21s in the summer was made because he had his eyes on a bigger prize next year.

'I was worried about fatigue come November or December this year.

'If I'm fatigued in a couple of months' time then I won't be going to the Euros. That is my goal and my dream and I really think I can push on from here.'

England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce has backed David Bentley to answer his Wembley critics in the same manner John Barnes did.

Bentley was jeered on his senior debut for leaving Pearce a man down during the European Championships this summer, and the Blackburn winger is too old for the 2009 campaign.

'They probably made a little point of dissatisfaction but I'm sure come the next game when he gets on the pitch, that will be put behind him,' said Pearce.

Pearce is preparing the under-21s for their qualifier in Bulgaria the evening before Bentley could be given another chance, with the seniors playing Russia on Wednesday.

'I fully expect England supporters to be right behind him and I've got my fingers crossed he will go on and have a good international career because I think he's a good player and I think he has got the tools to be an international player,' added Pearce, whose youngsters kicked off their campaign with a win in Montenegro on Friday.

Pearce was playing at left-back for England when Barnes received abuse from his own supporters. Regardless of whether Barnes totally won over England fans, Pearce was impressed with how the winger refused to hide.

'I was playing behind and he reacted like I expect John Barnes to: give me the ball,' he said.

'And you walk off the pitch as a team-mate of his, disapproving of any singling out of individuals but knowing full well the respect gained for John Barnes.

'If you didn't have it before you gained a bit more respect afterwards because he wouldn't go hiding, he'd say `give me the ball, I want to play'.

'Coming off the pitch, that's what stood out that night for me, not the booing, John Barnes standing up saying `give me the football'.'

Pearce saw enough in two under-21 friendlies last season to suggest Bentley will bounce back.

He added: 'The better players have always got a little bit of strength in character when there's a little bit of adversity, the game is going against you, they're able to say `give me the ball'. I saw a bit of that in him.'