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By ESPN Staff
Mar 14, 2011

Gary Hooper earns Under-21 call

Celtic striker Gary Hooper has been called up to the England Under-21 squad for the first time.

The former Scunthorpe striker was linked with a shock call-up to the full England squad earlier this month, and will have the chance to impress Fabio Capello if selected for the Under-21 match against Denmark in Viborg on March 24.

Kieran Gibbs, Micah Richards, Jordan Henderson, Chris Smalling and Jack Rodwell have all been named in Pearce's squad, meaning they are unlikely to get the call from Fabio Capello for England's game against Wales unless he is beset by injury problems.

One or more of the quintet may come in to the Italian's thoughts though for England's friendly against Ghana two weeks on Tuesday.

Despite being 23, Hooper qualifies for the squad as he was under 21 at the start of England's qualifying campaign and could feature in this summer's European Championships in Denmark.

He, Bolton's Mark Davies, and Aston Villa's Nathan Baker, are all making their first appearances in the Pearce's squad, who will take on Iceland at Deepdale four days after their match against the Danes in Viborg.

The Under-21s boss has challenged his squad to impress him as he starts thinking about the group that he wishes to take to this summer's championships.

"There are one or two fresh faces in there such as Gary Hooper and Mark Davies but in the main the majority of the players are well known to us and have been involved in the qualifying for the tournament,'' Pearce said. "Now's the time for all of the players to impress in the minds of the coaching staff that they want to be the ones stepping on to the plane. At the end of this meet-up I need to be able to make some final decisions about my squad - and I will.

"Both of the teams we'll face will be in the Championships in June so there can be no better warm-up opportunity for us and there will be no underestimating anyone on our part, and I expect the opposition will be thinking much the same about us.''

Pearce saw his side hit by a series of late withdrawals the last time they played in February's 1-0 defeat against Italy. That perhaps explains why he has chosen a large number of players for the latest get-together.

Sunderland loanee Danny Welbeck returns to the fold after a recent spell on the sidelines with injury, while Kyle Walker - who was drafted into the senior set-up for England's 2-1 win in Denmark - drops down to the Under-21s again.

Ipswich's highly-rated striker Connor Wickham is recalled after missing out on the squad to face Italy and Chelsea midfielder Josh McEachran keeps his place after making his debut in Empoli. There is no place in the squad for Southampton's Alex Chamberlain, who also made his bow against the Italians.

England Under-21 squad: Fielding (Blackburn), Loach (Watford), Smithies (Huddersfield), McCarthy (Reading), Baker (Aston Villa), Joe Bennett (Middlesbrough), Bertrand (Chelsea), Caulker (Tottenham), Gibbs (Arsenal), Mee (Manchester City), Naughton (Tottenham), Richards (Manchester City), Smalling (Manchester United), Tomkins (West Ham), Walker (Tottenham), Albrighton (Aston Villa), Cork (Chelsea), Cleverley (Manchester United), Davies (Bolton), Henderson (Sunderland), Lansbury (Arsenal), McEachran (Chelsea), Muamba (Bolton), Rodwell (Everton), Rose (Tottenham), Sinclair (Swansea), Delfouneso (Aston Villa), Hooper (Celtic), Sturridge (Chelsea), Welbeck (Manchester United), Wickham (Ipswich).

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