Wickham’s England hopes could rest on Carroll’s fitness

CONNOR Wickham could face a straight fight with a �30 million pound man for a place in England Under-21s’ European Championships squad this summer.

The Ipswich Town starlet has been named alongside eight other strikers by Stuart Pearce for the tournament in Denmark next month.

And the 18-year-old could go head-to-head with Andy Carroll if the England boss decides to go with just one big man up front alongside speed kings Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge.

Pearce has admitted he has only two spots to fill in his 23-man squad although some question marks remain over form and fitness – with Carroll struggling during Liverpool’s 2-0 defeat against Tottenham on Sunday.

The England boss said: “I know 21 (players) at present, barring injuries. I have got two places I’m looking at and thinking I am undecided.

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“The next couple of weeks, in regards to injuries, in regards to form, in regards to one or two other situations, will indicate to me those two places.”

Wickham is hoping to star for England in a second European Championships in successive seasons after scoring winning goals in the Under-17s semi-final and final last year.

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But it will be a hard ask to even make the squad with Sturridge a virtual certainty and probably joined by Welbeck and Carroll if they can overcome injury concerns.

With Scott Sinclair listed as a midfielder, but just as comfortable playing in a more advanced role, it could leave just one final spot for a recognised striker.

This will be occupied by either Wickham, Celtic goal machine Gary Hooper, Burnley’s Jay Rodriguez or one from a trio of Premiership forwards who have had loan spells in the Championship this season – Nathan Delfouneso, Freddie Sears and James Vaughan.

Pearce said: “There is some great talent in there. The majority have contributed over a two-year period to get us to a third finals. I am very excited by it and the players are excited themselves.

“Anyone who is omitted from that squad and doesn’t make the 23 will be very disappointed. I have to disappoint someone but it will be down to the players and the players’ form – nothing else.”

The Under-21s manager has closely monitored Wickham’s progress over the last few months and was at Portman Road to watch the youngster in the 5-1 defeat by Norwich.

But while Wickham can only wait and hope – with no training scheduled for the Under-21s until the final squad is named – some of his rivals have a chance to impress during the forthcoming final weekend of this season.

Pearce has to name his final 23-man squad for the tournament by June 1 before the campaign starts against Spain on June 12.

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