ENGLAND manager Steve McClaren reckons David Bentley has the potential to become the new' David Beckham.
The Blackburn midfielder will cap an excellent season when he makes his debut for England's B team in tonight's friendly with Albania at Turf Moor.
And McClaren has told the 22-year-old if he makes a big enough impression then he could put himself in the frame for a senior call-up for next month's showpiece friendly with Brazil at Wembley, and the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier with Estonia in Tallin on June 6.
In an exclusive interview with the Lancashire Telegraph, McClaren said he has been hugely impressed by the great strides Bentley has made at Blackburn this season, hence his decision to promote him to the B squad from the Under 21s.
And the England boss, who confirmed that Bentley will definitely start tonight's match in a right-sided midfield role, also admitted he can see why well-respected figures like Mark Hughes have started to make favourable comparisons between the Rovers ace and former England captain, Beckham.
"I can see that (comparison)," said McClaren.
"His right foot is pretty similar to David's. He's got a great touch, great feel on the ball, and he can deliver that pass.
"But he's still got a long way to go before he emulates anything that David (Beckham) has done."
The clamour for Bentley to be included in a senior England squad has been gaining momentum for some time, and it reached a crescendo when he turned in a man-of-the-match performance in a recent Under 21 friendly with Italy at the revamped Wembley.
Aside from claiming the distinction of becoming the first Englishman to score at the new venue, he also wowed McClaren with the quality and range of his passing that day, and the England boss feels the time is now right for him to showcase his talents at a higher level.
"David Bentley has impressed me, not just for Blackburn but whenever I've watched him play for the Under 21s, and he's a player who is technically very, very good," said the England boss.
"He's also someone who no matter what the occasion, the pressure, or the magnitude of the game will always want the ball and take the ball.
"When you're playing for England that's one of the main criteria you have to have because it's high pressure.
"It's a big jump from club level but he's proved he can handle that, and playing at Under 21 level.
"Can he now make the jump to senior level?
"It's great to have him in the B squad, it's great to have seen him training with the rest of the players, he's done very, very well, and I hope he does well tonight.
"I want all the players individually to play well tonight."
McClaren has tried a number of different players on the right-hand side of the England midfield since he took the controversial decision to axe Beckham from his plans last summer.
Steven Gerrard, Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips have all had spells on England's right-flank, and McClaren is now about to try another option in Bentley, who perhaps possesses slightly different qualities to his rivals for the position.
"He's a little bit different (to what we already have)," said the England boss. "Technically, he's very, very good. He's got a great range of pass, a great right foot, and he delivers a very good cross.
"His all-round game is very, very good."
As for Bentley's prospects of winning a senior call-up for the games against Brazil and Estonia next month, McClaren added: "He certainly can force his way in. He's one that we've shown faith in, we've brought him with us from the Under 21s, and we'll see how he performs tonight."