U19s Head Coach feels his side can keep improving as they prepare to face Denmark
England U19s v Denmark U19s
U19 International Match
7.30pm, Tuesday 5 February 2013
The Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster Rovers FC
Call 01302 762576 for tickets
By Nicholas Veevers
Noel Blake takes his team into 2013 hoping to build on last November’s victory over Finland, when they play Denmark tonight.
It took an injury time penalty from captain John Lundstram to win the game for England on a cold night in Telford on that occasion.
And it looks as though the Young Lions will have to brave the temperatures again on Tuesday, following snowfall in Doncaster overnight.
Blake has had to use a large number of players in his U19 squads this season and there is the possibility of more debuts at this level against the Danes.
But with the Elite Qualifying Round coming up in May, the Head Coach has welcomed the opportunity to assess his options.
He said: “Due to a number of reasons, it’s not been a settled squad by any stretch of the imagination so far this season.
“That said, it’s given a number of opportunities to others and, in the main, the new lads have done reasonably well in the games.
“The likes of Nick Powell, Nathaniel Chalobah, Will Hughes and Raheem Sterling have been selected for the Under-21 and Senior squads respectively and in many respects that is what the U19 squad is all about.
“Individual challenges and progression within the England set-up are important and that’s what they should all be striving to achieve.
“This game serves as an important exercise for the players and staff, as it gives us a further opportunity to assess one or two new faces for the first time at this level.
“Meanwhile, others will again be challenged to further enhance their reputations with good performances.”
England last met Denmark at U19 level just over a year ago, when a second-half header from striker Rob Hall won that game for Blake’s side.
And England will have to approach this match in the right way too, with Blake expecting a thorough test from Denmark.
He added: “They will be competitive, disciplined, technical and tactically astute so we will have to be patient in possession, very mindful of them when they are in possession and defend set plays well.
“I expect a very close encounter and we will have to earn the right to play and get a positive result from this game.”
And Blake is confident that there is more than enough ability within his squad to do so, with a number of internationally experienced players such as Lundstram, Nathan Redmond, Jordan Pickford and Blair Turgott at his disposal.
Coupled with that, there are five underage players in the group who are constantly developing at this level.
“We have technically good players in the squad and their game understanding, game management and tactical adjustment is getting better all the time,” explained Blake.
“We must keep improving and play the game in the right manner, by passing through the thirds and retaining possession for long spells. Equally, we have to defend as unit and be hard to break down and beat.
“At times, it’s what you do when the opposing team are having a spell of possession that often make the difference at this level.”