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Thursday, August 26, 1999 Published at 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK

Sport: Football

Pearce makes shock England return

Stuart Pearce: "Just another player in an England shirt"

Veteran defender Stuart Pearce has received a shock recall to Kevin Keegan's squad to face Luxembourg and Poland in England's crucial Euro 2000 qualifiers.

Watch the news conference in full
The 37-year-old West Ham player last appeared in an England shirt two years ago.

England coach Keegan defended his decision, saying: "He's in form and if he's fit he'll be starting.

"To me, he's just another player in an England shirt."

He added: "He was a bit gobsmacked when I rang him to tell him the news."

The BBC's Andrew Shaw: "It's a bigger than usual squad"
Other surprises were the omissions of Middlesbrough's Paul Ince and Manchester United striker Andy Cole.

The bulky 27-man squad reflects the tough decisions and the injury worries Keegan has had to confront ahead of the crunch qualifiers with Luxembourg at Wembley on 4 September and in Poland four days later.

[ image: Out: Andy Cole]
Out: Andy Cole
Five key players missing through injury have also returned to the squad - David Seaman, Gary Neville, Tony Adams, Sol Campbell and Michael Owen.

There are also 10 players in the squad on yellow cards and they face a ban if they are awarded a second against Luxembourg.

"It's almost inevitable I'll be losing two, three, maybe four of these players," said Keegan.

"If I do, I'll be tapping into the under 21 squad or calling up some other players."

Shearer defence

Chris Sutton is also in, alongside Kevin Phillips and Teddy Sheringham.

[ image: In: Chris Sutton]
In: Chris Sutton
After announcing the selection, Keegan threw his weight behind off-form striker Alan Shearer.

"A lot of people are starting to doubt him but I wouldn't," he said.

"I really don't have to defend Alan Shearer. His record stands up to anyone's, anywhere in the world."

Shearer was left out of Newcastle's starting line-up by manager Ruud Gullit in Wednesday's 2-1 loss to Sunderland.

England squad to play Luxembourg and Poland:

Seaman (Arsenal), Martyn (Leeds), Walker (Tottenham), G Neville (Man Utd), P Neville (Man Utd), Adams (Arsenal), Southgate (Aston Villa), Pearce (West Ham), Woodgate (Leeds), Campbell (Tottenham), Ferdinand (West Ham), Keown (Arsenal), Batty (Leeds), Dyer (Newcastle), Anderton (Tottenham), Beckham (Man Utd), Parlour (Arsenal), Redknapp (Liverpool), Shearer (Newcastle), Fowler (Liverpool), Owen (Liverpool), Sutton (Chelsea), Sherwood (Tottenham), McManaman (Real Madrid), Sheringham (Man Utd), Phillips (Sunderland), Scholes (Man Utd).

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