Blake: ‘A vital age group’
By Nicholas Veevers
Tuesday, 06 March, 2012
Head Coach Noel Blake ready for U18s test against Poland at Gresty Road.
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Head Coach Noel Blake is back on U18s duty on Wednesday evening as he takes charge for the game with Poland in Crewe.
The U18s had previously been in action last November when they drew 1-1 with Slovakia and this week provides Blake with a second chance to look at the year group who will be competing for places in next season’s U19 campaign as well as allowing them to continue their own international development.
“There is only a two-game programme each season at U18 level, and although it’s not a championship year group; it is still very much a vital age group for us,” said Blake.
“A few of the current U19 squad came into the system at this stage and the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have gone on to represent the Under-21s, so again we will take the opportunity to assess a few more new faces and see how they perform at this level.
“There is some real competition for places in the squad this season, players from last season’s U17s will be pressing hard for places, and equally there are late developers within the group who have shown some real promise and need to be looked at.”
England met Poland at U18 level last season, which ended in a 3-0 victory for Blake’s team at Wycombe Wanderers so he will be hoping for a similar outcome on this occasion.
“We will be encouraging the squad to play a patient game when required, try and build from the back, play through midfield, encourage them to be creative and play in tight areas both in attack and defence,” explained Blake.
“We will be looking for good movement and rotation, technical skills, tactical awareness and game understanding. We want see them expressing themselves as individuals, but equally demonstrate a good team ethos as well.”
He still feels Poland will offer formidable opposition though and the onus will be on England to break them down and force the play.
“Poland will be a great test for us this evening, and as with all nations from that region of Europe, I suspect that they will deploy a 1-4-4-1-1 formation and try to make it difficult for us to break down, and look to play on the counter attack,” he added.
“They will be technically good, athletic, disciplined and organised, but that’s the challenge our players must face and overcome to progress at this level.”