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Is Mancienne worth his England place?

Michael Mancienne

By Mark Ashenden

If Michael Mancienne faces Germany on Wednesday, not only will the 20-year-old be playing for England with no Premier League experience, he could be partnering Chelsea team-mates he has barely spoken to.

It has been a sensational few weeks for the central defender. Currently on a two-month loan at Wolves riding high in the Championship, he is now in the senior England squad with the prospect of playing alongside the likes of John Terry.

The England captain, who made his international debut aged 22, calls Mancienne a "fantastic" player and predicts a "bright future", while Frank Lampard has also hailed his talents to England Under 21 boss Stuart Pearce.

His inclusion may be a surprise to many, but to those who have worked with him, it is just rewards for a young man who has been quietly learning his trade away from Stamford Bridge for the last two years.

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SuperMickMccarthy

Spotted by Chelsea scouts playing for London team Kingstonian Colts aged eight, he made his reserve debut while still at school, before signing his first professional contract in January 2006 under former boss Jose Mourinho.

And having watched him "cruise" through those reserve games, it was not long before the then QPR boss John Gregory snapped up Mancienne on loan in October 2006.

"I'm a huge fan," Gregory told BBC Sport. "He is better than Terry was at the same age. We fell in love with him at the club. He's very quick, reads the game brilliantly and has the pace to get out of trouble.

"When the ball was played over the top there was no one quicker in the division. He's a dominant central defender and tidies up brilliantly.

"He's brave, tackles well and is really good in the air for not a tall player."

The former Aston Villa and Derby boss managed QPR for a year until October 2007 and despite initially utilising Mancienne as a right-back, enjoyed watching his development into a central defender.

"We questioned whether he would be strong enough," Gregory added. "Chelsea reserves is one thing but Championship life or death games were another.

"He was caught ball-watching occasionally but he has learned from his mistakes. He is outstanding now."

After rejecting the offer of representing the Seychelles (his family moved to the UK three years before his birth), Mancienne captained the England Under 18s before he was called up by Pearce last year.

Michael Mancienne
Mancienne helped England U-21s qualify for the 2009 European Champs

And with a month remaining on his loan period at Wolves, manager Mick McCarthy says Mancienne has been a huge factor in helping his team to a six-point lead at the top of the Championship.

But is he good enough to make the international grade?

McCarthy thinks so, saying Mancienne was "ready" for the next step up, claiming his senior call-up is just part of a "natural progression".

Gregory sees no reason why Mancienne will not earn many England caps, comparing his situation to a similar baptism of fire for Gareth Barry when he was introduced to the senior set-up aged 17.

"So far Mancienne has coped admirably with everything thrown at him," said Gregory, Barry's manager at Aston Villa between 1998-2002.

"Barry came through it all and there is no reason why Mancienne can't do the same.

"If you look at him play you see there's a Rio Ferdinand there. Wolves is a great club for him right now, he's got a very supportive family and he's got a fantastic future."

With injury forcing Rio Ferdinand's absence on Wednesday, Aston Villa's Curtis Davies and Everton's Joleon Lescott in the squad, and the likes of excluded Jonathan Woodgate in good form for Spurs, competition for the England centre-half spots is hot.

If Mancienne's development continues as it has done, his club career may make a few twists and turns, but as far as his international duties are concerned, there seems to be no turning back.

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see also
Terry supports Mancienne call-up
16 Nov 08 |  Internationals
Capello checks on injured Gerrard
17 Nov 08 |  Internationals
Frings not picked to face England
13 Nov 08 |  Internationals
Mancienne signs new Chelsea deal
08 Aug 07 |  Chelsea
Newton thinks Mancienne is ready
16 Apr 08 |  Chelsea
Awesome England thrash Germany
01 Sep 01 |  Football


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