An injury-depleted England face a demanding friendly against 2010 World Cup finalists the Netherlands at Wembley today as they begin life without departed manager Fabio Capello.
Capello’s shock resignation following the decision to strip John Terry of the captaincy has left England’s Euro 2012 preparations in limbo, with the FA yet to appoint a full-time successor to the Italian.
While Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp is the overwhelming favorite to take over, the FA has yet to make a move for the Spurs boss, leaving Stuart Pearce to oversee today’s friendly.
Pearce — who is coach of the England under-21 team and who will manage the British team at the London Olympics this year — has made no secret of his willingness to lead England’s challenge at the Euros in Poland and Ukraine, but he remains a long-odds outside bet to succeed Capello on a permanent basis.
Any hopes Pearce may have had of using today’s friendly to enhance his credentials have not been helped by an injury crisis that has deprived him of Wayne Rooney, Tom Cleverly, Darren Bent and Kyle Walker.
Striker Bent looks set to miss out on Euro 2012 altogether after suffering ruptured ankle ligaments, his club Aston Villa reported on Monday.
Bent was injured when playing for Villa in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Wigan Athletic and the extent of the problem was confirmed by a leading ankle specialist in London.
Strangely, Pearce has declined to draft in replacements for strikers Rooney and Bent, meaning that the three forwards who remain — Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge and Fraizer Campbell — have only four caps between them.
With Terry already missing through injury, Pearce also raised eyebrows last week by choosing to omit veterans such as Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard.
“I know Frank, Rio and some of the other senior players. I don’t think I would learn anything watching them play, but I might learn something from watching some of the younger players,” Pearce said. “We are on the home run for the tournament and it’s important we get young faces in and see if they can handle a game of this magnitude.”
One veteran who did make the cut is Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who is expected to regain the captain’s armband he wore at the 2010 World Cup.
Gerrard, 31, will win his 90th cap today, but he hinted at the weekend that he may be entering the final few months of his international career as he seeks to prolong his playing days at Liverpool.
“It’s something I am going to have to sit down and think about after the Euros this summer,” Gerrard said. “First and foremost is that I love playing for England, and to captain your country is the pinnacle for any player, so that makes me proud.”
“I am aware of the future, the injuries I’ve had, and I want to play for Liverpool for as long as I can,” added Gerrard, who returns to Wembley just three days after lifting the League Cup at the stadium in Sunday’s win over Cardiff City.
Gerrard’s Liverpool and England teammate Stewart Downing is hopeful the midfielder may yet reconsider any decision to retire.
“I have not spoken to Steven about whether he is going to retire after the tournament, but I would be selfish and say I hope he plays on,” Downing said. “He is a great player and we need players like him in our team. He [Gerrard] is a great influence on players. He drives teams on. If he is given the captaincy, that is a good thing.”