Peterborough United’s young central defender Ryan Bennett has been named in the 25 man squad for Englands upcoming Under 21 matches against Iceland and Belgium.
Bennett made an impressive debut in Englands last match against Norway last month and hopes to retain his starting place.
Five players have been called up for the first for the matches while Manchester United duo, Danny Welbeck and Phil Jones have been left out of the squad.
The five new players are Crystal Palace’s Nathaniel Clyne, Brighton’s Lewis Dunk, Barnsley’s Jacob Butterfield, Tottenham’s Tom Carroll and Middlesbrough’s Alex Nimely.
England host Iceland at Colchester`s Weston Homes Community Stadium on Thursday 10th November before travelling to face Belgium four days later.
England have so far won three out of three matches and England Under 21 manager Stuart Pearce is looking to continue their 100% record. ‘We would have taken four points from those before the game so to come back with six out of six is a fantastic achievement, especially when you consider the adversity that led into the Norway game with three players picking up injuries,’ explained the 49-year-old.
‘But there were no excuses and it really galvanised the group. Their attitude is fantastic, and in this clutch of players we have some very solid individuals, who have a great approach and a great attitude. I was impressed with them all.
‘We’re fortunate that we got two tricky away games out of the way, but we have to maximise that at home and make sure there are no slip-ups. With only one team certain of a place in the play-offs, dropping any points in the group puts you under real pressure.’
Middlesbrough keeper Jason Steele, who was part of the Three Lions squad at the Euro 2011 Finals in Denmark this summer, returns from injury and will be looking to push Jack Butland for the number one shirt.
“Jason was nailed on to be starter in this campaign, but you never know what is around the corner in football. We think he’s going to start with us this season then he gets injured and misses the Under-21s as well as all his club football,” continued Pearce.
“Credit to young Jack Butland, he has taken his opportunity. We have a group of four goalkeepers who, in my opinion, are the strongest group we have ever had in the squad. They are all excellent goalkeepers.”
West Ham midfielder Henri Lansbury will be missing for England through injury though. Pearce added: “Unfortunately Henri Lansbury is missing, and he`s been excellent on the pitch and around the camp and has weighed in with some important goals.
“I`ve called in a few first-timers, though, who have impressed this season. Lewis Dunk has been playing particular well at Brighton. He seems to play above his age in the way he carries himself on a football pitch. Nathaniel Clyne, Tom Carroll and Jacob Butterfield, likewise, have looked good for their clubs and have forced their way into our thinking.
“We’re always looking for strikers and Alex Nimely has been playing at Middlesbrough this year, and although he’s not a regular starter at the moment, this is the last opportunity of the year to get someone new into the squad and for them to stake a claim.”
England Under 21s squad in full
Ben Amos (Manchester United ), Jack Butland (Cheltenham Town – loan from Birmingham City), Jason Steele (Middlesbrough)
Nathan Baker (Aston Villa), Ryan Bennett (Peterborough United) , Matthew Briggs (Fulham), Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace), Craig Dawson (West Bromwich Albion), Lewis Dunk (Brighton & Hove Albion), Jon Flanagan (Liverpool), Martin Kelly (Liverpool), Adam Smith (MK Dons – loan from Tottenham Hotspur)
Ross Barkley (Everton), Jacob Butterfield (Barnsley), Tom Carroll (Tottenham Hotspur), Gary Gardner (Aston Villa), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jason Lowe (Blackburn Rovers), Josh McEachran (Chelsea), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Jack Rodwell (Everton)
Nathan Delfouneso (Aston Villa), Alex Nimely (Middlesbrough – loan from Manchester City), Marvin Sordell (Watford), Connor Wickham (Sunderland)
Joe Bennett (Middlesbrough), Declan Rudd (Norwich City), Jonjo Shelvey (Blackpool – loan from Liverpool), Andros Townsend (Tottenham Hotspur), Dan Gosling (Newcastle United)
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