By Nicholas Veevers
Tuesday, 23 October, 2012
U18s Head Coach Noel Blake challenges squad to make an impression against Italy
Noel Blake has challenged his U18 squad to make the right impression against Italy on Wednesday and push themselves into further international contention.
There’s a busy season ahead for England with U19 Euro Elite qualifiers, an U20 World Cup and Under-21 Euro Finals all scheduled for 2013.
And Head Coach Blake sees the U18 platform as a good chance for players to force themselves into his thoughts for the U19 fixtures and possibly beyond that level for what promises to be a busy summer.
A number of changes have been forced on Blake with five players from his initial 18-man squad being withdrawn, but that allows an opportunity for others to come in and stake their own claim.
He said: “Although the U18s is not a UEFA championship year group, games like this are a very important exercise for the players and the staff, as it gives us the opportunity to take a look at players who we have been monitoring for a while and also those we feel might challenge for places in this seasons U19s squad.
“There are a few new faces to the international set-up as you would expect and it gives Andy Cale, Martin Thomas and myself a great opportunity to assess them at this level.
“At this stage of their development, it’s important that our players experience playing against as many different styles and situations that they might find themselves in. This is very much part of the pathway that will hopefully take them to the U19s, U20s, Under-21s and the Seniors in time.”
The golden example of U18s football providing an international platform comes in the case of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who made his first England appearance in Blake’s side against Poland at Wycombe two years ago.
“We have seen the strides made by the likes of Axle Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck, who have both played in U18 fixtures in recent years, so the question facing this group of players, is who can follow in their footsteps?” asked Blake.
“Playing against Italy is always a good test, particularly at this early stage of the season.
“They are always strong through the different age groups and it will be a good opportunity for us to see how our lads equip themselves.
“It’s the type of game the players should be really looking forward to.”
Call 01623 482482 for tickets (£3 for adults and £1 for concessions)