Johnson ruled out for England Under 21s

September 2, 2008

Michael Johnson has joined Manchester City team-mate Micah Richards on the sidelines ahead of England Under-21's clash against Portugal at Wembley on Friday.

Richards suffered a shoulder injury against Sunderland at the weekend, ruling the defender out of international duty, and midfielder Johnson also picked up a knock at the Stadium of Light.

Aston Villa defender Craig Gardner has also withdrawn through injury for England's final qualifier for the 2009 European Championships in Sweden. Wolves' Richard Stearman has been called up to offer cover in defence.

Stuart Pearce's youngster need a point secure first place in Group 3 and even if they lose to Portugal they should have enough points to reach a two-legged play-off in October as one of the best runners-up.

Pearce has already lost Theo Walcott as the Arsenal teenager has been called into Fabio Capello's squad, although Gabriel Agbonlahor has been left with the Under-21s along with players with senior experience such as Joe Hart and Aaron Lennon.

Fraizer Campbell has been included, fresh from his loan move from Manchester United to Tottenham on transfer-deadline day.

The Football Association are still selling tickets for the Wembley clash as Pearce looks to give his players big-stage experience.

Pearce said: 'We want the transition to the seniors to be as smooth as possible. Taking this game to Wembley is part of that.

'A lot of the Under-21 players will never have played there before and the experience of playing this game there will help them as and when they step up to the seniors.'