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Rodgers: U21s good for Sterling


Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, left, and Jack Wilshere, right, could both play for England Under-21s next summer

Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, left, and Jack Wilshere, right, could both play for England Under-21s next summer

Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, left, and Jack Wilshere, right, could both play for England Under-21s next summer

Brendan Rodgers believes Euro 2015 duty with England's Under-21s would not dent Raheem Sterling's long-term development.

The Liverpool manager will reserve judgement until the end of the Premier League season on whether the England wing will be fresh enough to compete in the Czech Republic with Gareth Southgate's side.

Roy Hodgson came under fire for deciding to use 19-year-old Sterling sparingly across the England senior side's Euro 2016 qualifiers against San Marino and Estonia, prompting widespread inquests into player burnout.

Anfield boss Rodgers said England should take their strongest-available age-group side to next summer's European competition - full caps like Sterling included - fitness and freshness permitting.

"We assess that come the end of the season," Rodgers said.

"I think it is a relevant point for England: If they are going to improve internationally there has to be more focus given to the Under-21s team.

"I think Gareth is doing an excellent job there, allowing the players to develop and hopefully getting into the first team.

"Raheem is still eligible to play but I think there are a number of young players that break through that can fit into that age group and I don't think it would do them any harm at all if they went and experienced a competition like that surrounded by top players.

"If they were good enough to go on and win that tournament that would not hold back their development."

Jose Mourinho pledged Chelsea's support for any player heading off for any level of international duty, a day after Everton boss Roberto Martinez questioned the wisdom of heaping extra duties on young stars already involved in England's senior set-up.

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet and Hull manager Steve Bruce challenged England's hierarchy and players to put politics aside and mount a serious title bid next summer.

Former Uruguay midfielder Poyet said he has "no doubt" Black Cats star Connor Wickham would want to play a part in the Czech Republic tournament.

"Yes he would, I have no doubt," said Poyet on Wickham.

"And if on top of that you have got a chance to win something with your national team, that's the maximum you can aim for as a football player.

"I don't think the debate here is if the Under-21s should play with the Under-21s or the first-team, it should be: do you want to win the tournament?

"That's up to you. I know what I would do."

Ex-Manchester United defender Bruce said England must start picking from strength at Under-21 level in a bid for global success at senior level.

"There will be managers jumping up and down that they don't want their young players having a summer of all football again which you can understand as a manager," said Bruce.

"However tied with that is the international scene and we'd love to see the Under-21s team lift a trophy, the international team do well.

"We have to start putting things in place that we are going to play our best Under-21s team, that's the way forward for me.

"I would like to see our international team progress.

"We haven't won a tournament in years. We (Hull) have got one or two now, Tom Ince in particular, around the U21s, and I can't see any reason why you'd want to not let him play. That would be totally selfish but we are like that as managers.

"But if we want our international team to succeed we have to let our young players play in the big tournaments. Every other country seem to do that, so why can't we?"