McClaren turns to 007 Richards to stir up shaken England
November 15, 2006 6:30pm CST
AMSTERDAM (AFP) - After being shaken by mediocre performances against Macedonia and Croatia last month, England go into Wednesday's friendly against Holland in need of some stirring. That was exactly the role head coach Steve McClaren had assigned to Aaron Lennon, before Tottenham's exciting young winger became the eighth player to withdraw from his squad. In his absence, McClaren will be looking to the likes of Joe Cole, who missed the draw with Macedonia and defeat in Croatia, to inject a bit of zip into the performance of a squad that looked desperately short of ideas in last month's Euro 2008 qualifiers. "You need players who can beat players and change the game," McClaren said. "And the addition of players like Joe Cole provides that." There should be a debut, at some stage, for the highly-promising Micah Richards, which would make the Manchester City player, at 18 years and 144 days, the seventh youngest England player in history -- and the youngest defender. Richards sees his long-term future as a central defender but he has been catching the eye at right-back for City this term and a calf injury to Gary Neville offers the perfect opportunity for McClaren to give him a first bite at the international cherry in the Amsterdam ArenA. Lennon and Neville apart, McClaren has retained the services of his first choice players and has been cheered by the recent form of Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard, both of whom looked flat during last month's setbacks. "A lot was spoken about Wayne Rooney before but he's certainly exploded over the last few weeks," McClaren added. "And Frank Lampard has been fantastic -- I watched him in the Champions League for Chelsea in Barcelona and he was outstanding. "I'm excited by the form of the players going into this game and we need to take that form into this match for England and give a performance that takes us forward." McClaren can be expected to take a look at how Everton's Andy Johnson gels alongside Rooney, whose partnership with Peter Crouch has yet to convince. But he will have to do without Charlton striker Darren Bent, Middlesbrough wide-man Stewart Downing, Newcastle captain Scott Parker and Lennon's Tottenham team-mates Ledley King and Jermaine Jenas, all of whom are ruled out by injury. Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland was excused the trip in order to attend the birth of his first child. England have not won on Dutch soil since 1969 and it would take a remarkable improvement on England's recent displays for a win to be registered over Marco van Basten's squad. But McClaren insists he has no regrets about a trip that could shred morale as easily as restore it. "I relish it," he insisted. "Absolutely. I would rather be playing this game than a lesser game. It's a great fixture with great tradition and always a very close one. It's going to be difficult, away from home in the Amsterdam Arena, of course it is. But as a player I would want to play in this match. "I don't feel under pressure, not at all. I know what I'm doing, I know where I'm going, I know what I have got to achieve and I know how I'm going to achieve it. That's what matters." Holland will be without Arsenal striker Robin van Persie, who joins Kirkland in missing the match because of the imminent birth of his first child. Van Basten has recalled AC Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf for the first time since becoming Dutch coach in 2004, because of an injury to Ajax's Wesley Sneijder.