Noel Blake wants his England U18s to make the most of their international opportunity
Belgium U18s v England U18s
6pm, Tuesday 5 March 2013
Tivoli Stadium, La Louvière, Belgium
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Noel Blake has urged his England U18 players to make the most of their international opportunity in Belgium on Tuesday evening.
The Young Lions are back in action for the second time this season with this game in La Louvière, after previously beating Italy by 2-0 in Mansfield last October.
And Head Coach Blake also has chance to look at no fewer than new 11 players who are in line for their England debuts at any level.
A string of player withdrawals in the last week have led to seven changes in the squad.
But with Blake using the U18s age group as a chance to build-up to U19s football the following season, it’s a chance for those involved to stake their claim.
He said: “It gives us the opportunity to take a look at players who we have been monitoring for a while and also those that we feel might challenge for places in the U19s squad.
“There are a few new faces to the international set-up and it’s a great opportunity to assess these players at this age level.
“Those involved can try and impress us and challenge for places in the U19 squad.”
Blake has used the U18s as a useful group to experiment in the past, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain making his first England appearance for the U18s against Poland in 2010.
And it’s the challenge set down by the likes of former U18s Oxlade-Chamblerlain and Danny Welbeck that these players can strive to achieve.
Blake added: “We have seen the strides made by Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who have both played U18 fixtures in recent years.
“So the question facing this group of players is who can follow in their footsteps and play senior international football at major tournaments?
“It’s really important that we continue to look at players to see if they can step up to the next level.
“We work very closely with their clubs, who also recommend players to us if they believe they are good enough to perform at international level.”
So with U19 Euro Elite Round qualifiers coming up in May and an U20 World Cup in June, there is a chance of tournament football for players in this age group.
And Blake will have his eye firmly on his squad’s performance and development in Belgium this evening.