England U19s Head Coach and his squad travel to Estonia on Saturday.
By Nicholas Veevers
England U19s Head Coach Noel Blake takes his squad to Estonia on Saturday, where they will be competing in the European Championship Finals and is hoping that his players can replicate the success that this year group enjoyed as U17s two years ago.
With ten members of this squad being part of John Peacock’s side which lifted the U17 Euro title in Liechtenstein in 2010, England now have the chance to create history and become the first nation to win two UEFA titles at separate levels with the same year group of players.
The squad have been training on home soil all week in preparation, using Tottenham Hotspurs’ base in Essex before heading further east to Tallinn where they will face Croatia in Tuesday’s group opener.
“This week has gone very well. We had a couple of knocks earlier in the week, but they’ve recovered and that aside, the lads have looked bright and sharp,” said Blake.
“I made five changes to the Elite Round squad, and we've lost Will Keane, which was obviously a blow, Larnell Cole and Nic Yennaris, who have all been an important part of the squad this season.
“We’re also missing the likes of Josh McEachran, Connor Wickham, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Butland, but for nice reasons as they’ve moved up to the Under-21s and Seniors.
“But we’ve got all of the players we requested from the clubs for this trip and I’m confident that we have enough ability to do well in Estonia.”
England face Croatia, Serbia and France in the group stage, where two teams from the four nations will progress to the semi-finals whilst there are places in next year’s U20 World Cup up for grabs too.
“They’re massive games. We played France earlier in the campaign in a tournament out there and I’ve seen both Croatia and Serbia, so I know what they’re all about,” he added.
“We know what we face, but I have confidence in our players and what we’ve got.
“Most of this squad have been through the system since they were U16s, U17s, U18s and now at U19s.
“We have a few U18 boys in the squad too, who played at the U17 World Cup last summer after the U17 European Championships, so there is a lot of experience in the squad.”
Whilst there is the opportunity to create history by winning the title, Blake’s first target is to get through a tough group stage after already qualifying for the Finals last month in the Elite Round.
“At the beginning of the season, I set our first objective as qualification for the Finals, we’ve done that,” he added.
“And the next one now is to qualify for the World Cup and then we’ll take it from there.
“We’re on target, we’ve played well throughout the campaign apart from one or two hiccups but you’re going to get that with young lads.
“We came through a tough qualification group, and we were delighted to qualify for the Finals again.”
TheFA.com will be with the Young Lions throughout the Finals, so be sure to keep up-to-date with all that’s happening right here.