Stuart Pearce has accused Phil Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of "apathy", claiming they refused to be in his England Under-21 squad for the summer's Euro 2013 tournament. Pearce also hit out at Gareth Bale, accusing Real Madrid's new world record signing of crying off from Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games the night before he was due to be selected.
Pearce was replaced as England Under-21 manager by Gareth Southgate following a dire showing in the European Championship in Israel, where his side lost all three of their group games. After previously claiming some of the squad did not really want to be in Israel, he named Manchester United's Jones and Arsenal's Oxlade-Chamberlain as players who had turned down the chance to play at the tournament.
"In our wildest dreams do you honestly think that England or any nation in the world can turn up at a major tournament without six or seven – I think there were eight players with senior international caps – who could have played for the England Under-21s this summer?" he told Sky Sports. "The odd one was injury, [but] apathy played a big part of it – the Oxlade-Chamberlains of this world, the Phil Joneses, because they didn't want to come. Once they go through the golden ivory towers of the seniors they don't want to come and play with the Under-21s any more.
"There is no nation in the world that could suffer that. Until we solve that problem – however we solve it – [there will be no success]. If it's a case of stopping players going into the seniors because they don't want to step down, like the Spanish boys do and they're happy to do so, [then so be it].
"I don't want to speak out of school and speak out of confidences, but we had a situation with Gareth Bale. We were going into the Olympic Games, I've spoken to him seven months prior about going to the Games, I'm going to put the squad out on the Friday morning – on Thursday he rings me and says his back's not so good, he's going to have to pull out of the squad.
"He plays his first game for Tottenham pre-season the same day as we play our first Olympic game. We've got the brightest talent in Britain at the time didn't want to go to the Olympic Games. And he wasn't alone, by the way. There [were] a couple of others as well, because of the media hype that football shouldn't be in the Olympics.
"Now you ask the 23 players who went to the Olympics – you ask [Craig] Bellamy [Ryan] Giggs, ask players of that ilk what they felt about the Olympic experience and they'll say arguably it could have been the best experience of their life on a football pitch."