Peacock set for Irish test
Friday, 25 March, 2011
Like the Seniors, the U17s have their own all-British affair on Saturday.
by Glenn Lavery
On Saturday, just an hour before the England Senior team take on Wales in a Euro 2012 qualifier, John Peacock will lead the U17s into battle in their own all-British Euro qualifier.
Peacock’s Young Lions have travelled to Belgium where they will aim to top a four-team table ahead of Northern Ireland, the host nation, Belgium, and Spain. And it all kicks-off against the Irish in Geel.
“We are really looking forward to the week ahead,” said Peacock, who led last season’s crop of England U17s to European glory in Liechtenstein.
“It’s a really challenging group, there’s no doubt about that. It’s one of the toughest Elite Round groups, but it’s an exciting challenge for the players.
“We’ve got a bit of a derby game against Northern Ireland first, then we have to contend with playing the host nation and then we face Spain in the final game and they are always good at youth level.
“We are not looking any further ahead than the first game, though, and everything we’ve been dealing with this week is focused towards the Northern Ireland game. I’ve seen them play and they enjoy playing the ball out from the back and that’s nice to see at this age group. It will probably be a tight game, with it being an all-British encounter but we have to get off to a good start. It’s no good thinking about game two and game three; we’ve got to get game one sorted first and that has been our real focus this week.”
England’s U16 Head Coach Kenny Swain usually assists Peacock with the U17s, but due to next week’s Victory Shield commitments, the former Aston Villa defender’s place has been taken by former Sheffield Wednesday manager Alan Irvine.
Irvine is no stranger to youth football, having worked in the youth set-up at Blackburn Rovers and been Academy Manager at Newcastle United and Peacock said he was delighted to have him on board for this week’s games.
If England reach the Euro Finals, which are to be held in Serbia in May, and finish at least third in their group of four they will secure a place at the U17 World Cup, in Mexico in June, but Peacock knows there is a lot of football to be played between now and then.
“We told the players at the start of the season that there is a World Cup waiting for them,” he said. “That is the reward if we manage to come through this week. But we need to overcome these three difficult games first. There’s no point in looking any further than this week. We’re not getting carried away and we know what we need to do.
“But I have to say the players have been excellent so far this week. They have trained extremely well and they get on really well as a group, which is very important.
“They all know each other by now, they’ve had a year at U16s together and various U17 tournaments already this season and they are all aware of how we like to play the game and hopefully we can demonstrate that this week."