The perfect test
By Nicholas Veevers
Thursday, 06 September, 2012
England U19s Head Coach Noel Blake happy to be facing top opposition in Germany.
England U19s Head Coach Noel Blake sees Thursday’s game with Germany as the ideal start to the new season for his Young Lions.
After leading last season’s U19 squad to the semi-final of the European Championship, Blake now inherits a year group of players who have a fair amount of pedigree themselves, having reached the World Cup quarter final and Euro semi-final as U17s in 2011.
Ironically, their World Cup bid in Mexico was ended by Germany and many of the players on view in that game are set to feature again in Hamburg as both nations prepare for their First Qualifying Round of the 2013 European Championship next month.
“In this year group, Germany were European Finalists and World Cup semi-finals in the World Cup at U17 level, so we know that it’s going to be a good test for us for our first game in the season,” Blake told TheFA.com.
“That’s exactly what you want at this stage of the campaign. It’s great preparation for us, because you always want to play against the top nations and this will be a good exercise for the lads going into the Euro qualifiers against Ukraine, Estonia and Faroe Islands.
“It’s a different game to those, but it’s a hard one mentally, physically, technically and tactically and this is the really good test that we want and what we were looking for.”
Having seen many of the players in his squad progress through the international ranks as U16s, where Blake assists Kenny Swain, and then with the U18s last season, Blake knows the capabilities and depth of talent that he has at his disposal this season both within the 18-man squad in Hamburg and beyond.
And what he has seen on the training pitch so far has given him further enthusiasm and food for thought ahead of the new campaign.
“I’m very familiar with this group,” he revealed. “I worked with most of them as U16s and then we saw them progress under John Peacock in the U17s and then I took them again as U18s last season.
“They reached the semi-finals of the Euros as U17s and the World Cup quarter final, so it’s a very good group and I’ve been really enthused by what I’ve seen in training so far, particularly in the attacking areas.
“We want the players to really express themselves in the final third, be a bit more creative and put the ball at risk, because if you want to be creative, you have to put the ball at risk.
“We’ll see how that works out as we go on throughout the campaign.”