Richards and Lennon withdraw from Young Lions

October 6, 2008

Micah Richards and Aaron Lennon have withdrawn from the England Under-21 squad to face Wales over the next week in their European Championship play-off.

Richards, who put his case forward for a return to the seniors when he featured against Slovenia, played against Liverpool for Manchester City at the weekend but will not report for international duty.

The 20-year-old is thought to have picked up a knock, as has Lennon, who was substituted in the 74th minute of Tottenham's defeat to Hull.

With Theo Walcott in Fabio Capello's squad, the withdrawal of Richards and Spurs winger Lennon denies coach Stuart Pearce of the players with the most senior experience among his youngsters.

Pearce, however, has Aston Villa's Craig Gardner to cover at right-back for the two-legged clash to reach the finals in Sweden next year, with the first leg of the play-off at Ninian Park in Cardiff on Friday.

The under-21s reached the semi-finals at the last tournament, with Pearce wanting to go one better this time around.

"My main drive from the offset, and the message I've given to the players when we started the tournament, is that we're in this tournament to try to win it," he said.

"We're not here to make up the numbers or just to get to the finals. You have to have it on your mind that there are 15 matches to play to win this tournament.

"That will be the same message as the other managers across Europe will be giving their players. If we get to the finals there are only seven other teams, you realise that."

Meanwhile, Pearce's youngsters will face Czech Republic in a friendly at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane on November 18.