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Arguing the Case for Sterling and Barkley

As England prepare to face Italy, plenty are arguing over whether to play the likes of Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley. Including former players Paul Scholes and John Barnes.

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While most of the footballing world is calling for Roy Hodgson to throw caution to the wind and play young stars like Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley, an unexpected source of dissent has arrived in former Liverpool winger John Barnes.

Most have bought into the line that England have nothing to lose in playing as many of their young talents as can be fit into the starting eleven against Italy, Barnes isn't so sure. And he's worried that the rumble of expectation for their inclusion could end up doing more harm than good.

"These are England players for the future," said Barnes. "We don't want to stunt their development by putting them under too much pressure, and we must remember that the likes of Barkley and Sterling have only been regular first team players for a year or so.

"By the time the European Championships come around in 2016 is when they will be ready to show what they can do. They both have great potential that will be realised, but it may not be this year."

On the other side of the divide, ex-Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes is speaking up to say what just about everybody else is thinking—including most Liverpool fans, who are convinced Roy Hodgson will be making a monumental blunder if he doesn't start Sterling.

"Now is a great chance for Roy Hodgson to give English football the identity we've lacked," said Scholes. "Tell the world this is how we play—attack! There is no point taking people like Raheem Sterling or Ross Barkley to Brazil 'for the experience.' Play them.

"Hodgson has little to lose by going for the jugular. Will we be satisfied if England scrape through to the quarter finals playing negative football? Let's not do that. Let's take responsibility for what happens by going for it. Let these England players off the leash."

For all that it pains to side with the United player, Scholes is right. England's players will never be under less pressure than they are at this World Cup—if there's a time to give youth a chance, it's now. And it doesn't hurt players like Sterling and Barkley look England's best chance regardless of age.

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