U19s Head Coach takes his squad to Estonia for Euro qualifiers this week.
By Nicholas Veevers
UEFA European U19 Championship
First Qualifying Round
26 September - 1 October 2012
Click here for fixtures
England U19s Head Coach Noel Blake
and his staff are in familiar territory this week, after arriving in Tallinn for the First Qualifying Round of this season’s European U19 Championship.
The Young Lions face opposition from hosts Estonia, Faroe Islands and Ukraine over the next week and must finish in the top two out of the four nations if they are to progress to the Elite Qualifying Round next spring.
It is only a matter of months since Blake took last season’s U19s group to the same city for the 2012 Euro Finals, where they reached the knock-out stage before an extra-time defeat against Greece
brought their title hopes to an end in the semi-final.
A number of Blake’s squad
for this trip were involved during the summer too, but the boss insists they are there for different reasons this time.
“It’s only familiar to us in that it’s the same city, as we’re very much in a different environment now, a different hotel, different training facilities and we’re also here for a different reason,” said Blake, ahead of Wednesday’s opening game with Estonia.
“We know why we’re here. We want to progress through the group and make sure we’re involved in the next stage.
“It’s also an opportunity for the players to showcase themselves, but ultimately we’re here to reach the Elite Round.”
The Young Lions have already played once this season, losing against Germany in a warm-up game earlier this month
, but it’s an altered squad which has travelled to Tallinn and Blake has been pleased with their work so far.
“We met up last Thursday and the lads have been really good so I’ve been pleased with them,” he admitted.
“Even more so, given that there are a few new faces in there due to some of the withdrawals that were enforced on us for one reason or another.
“We travelled well, got here on Sunday evening and the lads have come together really well.
“They have a shown a great approach and mental approach to training, and have been training on the front foot. We’ve actually done one or two things differently to previously but I’ve been quietly pleased with the work that’s been done so far.”
After Wednesday's game with Estonia, England will then face Faroe Islands on Friday before their final group match against Ukraine on Monday 1 October.