Head Coach Noel Blake sees Qualifiers as a chance for his squad to impress.
UEFA European U19 Championship
Elite Qualifying Round
26-31 May 2010
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By Nicholas Veevers
England U19 Head Coach Noel Blake meets up with his U19 squad on Thursday, as preparations begin for next week’s Elite Qualifying Round in Ukraine.
The Young Lions know that by finishing top of their group which contains Ukraine, Republic Of Ireland and Bosnia-Herzegovina, they will qualify for the European U19 Championship Finals, which are being held in France later this summer, for the third successive season.
Blake’s squad will spend the next few days training in Berkshire, before they travel to their Kiev base on Sunday to ready themselves for the opening game with Republic Of Ireland on Wednesday.
It’s been a good campaign to date for the U19s, who won all of their games in the First Qualifying Round last October and have enjoyed impressive results in matches against the likes of Russia, Netherlands and Turkey too.
Those games have enabled Blake and his staff to have a look at numerous players for the first time and several of those will be on this trip for their first experience of competitive international football.
“This year we have looked at a number of players and a few fresh players have come into the system for the first time, and they’ve all acquitted themselves very well,” Blake told TheFA.com ahead of the meet-up.
“Because you don’t always get the players you request for various reasons, we’ve broadened the pool a little bit and all of the players who have come in this season have been monitored by our scouts for a long while now. So they haven’t come in coldly and we know what they’re all capable of.”
However, Blake is aided by the presence of players such as Nathan Delfouneso, Matthew Briggs, Declan Rudd, Matthew James and Andros Townsend, who were all part of the U19 squad which reached the Final of this competition last year, ironically held in Ukraine.
“It is a help to have players who know what to expect, but I’m one of those people who works on the theory that when the final squad goes in, that’s the squad you’ve got to work with,” he added.
“There’s no point looking back and wishing that such and such a player is there.
“When someone misses out, that gives somebody else an opportunity to come in and show what they can or can’t do at international level.
“That’s the message we give to the players: it’s your opportunity and you make sure you do something that we remember you for.”
Blake has made three changes to his original 18-man squad. Manchester City striker Alex Nimely and Aston Villa defender Nathan Baker have both been withdrawn, to be replaced by Wycombe’s Matt Phillips and Celtic’s Josh Thompson respectively. Sunderland forward Ryan Noble has also been drafted in to replace West Ham’s Frank Nouble, who is now unavailable due to his involvement in Swindon Town’s Play-Off campaign.