Stuart Pearce says his side must hit the ground running tonight in preparation for the European Qualifiers.
Nationwide Under-21 International Friendly
7.45pm, Tuesday 21 August 2007
Bristol City FC, Ashton Gate
Ticket Hotline 0871 222 6666
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Stuart Pearce has told his Under-21 troops they need to hit the ground running against Romania if they want to win the UEFA U21 Championships in two years' time.
The match at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate on Tuesday is a friendly fixture but Pearce will use it as preparation for the forthcoming qualifying campaign and wants to aim high.
He guided the Under 21s to the semi-finals in Holland this summer, only losing to the hosts in a mammoth penalty shoot-out. And now he wants even more from his players.
He said: "We have to hit the ground running because while we have the luxury of a friendly in Bristol tomorrow, after that we have six UEFA Championship qualifiers coming up really quickly.
"There are players in the squad who have already got a lot of credit with me because they played for me in the summer and I got to know them as individuals. But there's also an opportunity for all the boys who have come in to stake a claim and make sure they start in the next qualifier.
"From now on our focus is on winning the tournament in two years' time and I think everyone who was in the squad of 22 in Holland enhanced their own reputations.
"It was a great experience for those players to take part in the finals of a major international tournament and we have to make sure we qualify and are there again."
Pearce was hugely impressed with the performance of his team in Holland but admits it still hurts to have come home without a trophy.
He said: "Now we have to go one step further and win the tournament. A lot of people said they took pride from watching the Under 21 squad this summer and that's the best compliment these players could have.
"We have the nucleus of seven or eight players from that squad and now we have to build on it."
Tuesday’s match against Romania will be played in front of a big crowd at Ashton Gate and Pearce says he is delighted to be in Bristol.
He added: "Now the senior side are back at Wembley I think it's important to have the Under-21 games dotted around the country at grounds that don't see a senior game.
"Bristol is a fantastic football area and it's a fantastic venue for the game."
England's Young Lions squad includes the likes of Arsenal's Theo Walcott, Man City's Michael Johnson, AstonVilla's Gabriel, Agbonlahor, West Ham's Mark Noble and Newcastle's Jamies Milner. And there is also a place for Wolves' Michael Kightly - completing an incredible rise from non-league football for the young midielder.
Tickets are still on sale priced just £10 adults and £5 concessions from the Ticket Hotline 0871 222 6666 or in person from Ashton Gate.