Stuart Pearce says England Under 21s are happy to be part of the international set-up
Stuart Pearce has rubbished claims from Patrick Vieira that English players lack the hunger to represent their country.
Last Updated: 12/10/12 6:20pm
Former Arsenal skipper Vieira this week said young players no longer dream of representing England and suggested they withdraw from squads too willingly.
England Under 21 manager Pearce, whose side face Serbia at Carrow Road on Friday evening in the first leg of their European Championship play-off, refuted the idea and reckons his players are always happy to be a part of the international set-up.
He said: "I think the most important thing is whenever they come here we have to educate them footballing-wise, and they have to have a good footballing experience and enjoy each other's company.
"I get that impression with them and have done over the years with the environment we create.
"A lot of the credit goes to the senior players, the schoolmasters. The Fabrice Muambas, the (Jack) Rodwells and the (Jordan) Hendersons for making sure there is that code of conduct in the players and making them feel wanted.
"They (the players) are the best ambassadors I could ever have - if they come away and say to their team-mates who get picked for the first time how (good) it is to play with the under-21s.
"If they come away with a bad experience it is going to sour their taste before they walk through the door, but we don't have that here."
Pearce also praised the developing talent of the likes of Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling, and believes his performances for the Reds have left him full of self-confidence.
Roy Hodgson has said he expects to name players in his senior England squad who are not necessarily first-choice with their clubs, but Pearce reckons game-time could be vital for his younger players.
Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha has three Under-21 caps to his name and Pearce has been delighted with the way he has had his talent nurtured at Selhurst Park, whereas a move to a bigger club could have seen the 19-year-old begin to stagnate.
"They give him the option of playing at Palace, that is credit to them and Dougie (Freedman, Palace manager), he has got a lot of confidence in the young player," Pearce said.
"I think they did the same with Victor Moses when he was coming through the system at Palace, and there is a lot to be said for having a good, solid grounding at these clubs and you will make the step forward if your ability dictates.
"I would probably advise a player to play. One thing you can't underestimate as well is where you enjoy playing your football, that is really important.
"I had opportunities to leave Forest some years ago but decided to stay because I enjoyed the environment I was working in and the manager I was working for."
Ahead of the Serbia clash, Pearce has lost Henri Lansbury, Nathaniel Clyne, Andre Wisdom and Nick Powell through injury while Jonjo Shelvey and Ryan Bertrand were moved into the senior ranks.
Shelvey would have missed the first leg against Serbia through suspension had he stayed with the Under-21s, but Pearce has not ruled out the Liverpool midfielder returning to his party ahead of the second leg in Krusevac on Tuesday.
"He is suspended for the first leg so for him to go with the seniors was probably ideal for me, Jonjo and Roy as well," Pearce said.
"That is a conversation between myself and Roy on Friday and it will be Roy's ultimate judgment, and we will speak about that probably on Saturday morning and see which way we want to go."
One player who is not likely to be available to Pearce for the foreseeable future is Jack Wilshere.
The Arsenal youngster has been out injured for over a year, and although he is now on the comeback trail, Pearce is eager for him to focus on his club commitments before contemplating a return to the international scene.
"Jack is still a million miles away from full fitness that is for sure," he said.
"The most important thing for Jack at the moment is to get fit for Arsenal, that is the most important thing and if the performances are good enough it will be another step up the ladder for him."