Stuart Pearce says that seeing Fabio Capello gave his players a lift before they beat Wales in Wrexham.
International Under-21 Friendly
7.30pm, Thursday 15 May 2008
The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham FC
Match-winning strikes from Tom Huddlestone and Theo Walcott not only pleased England Under-21s Coach Stuart Pearce, but would have also put a smile on the face of Senior Team Manager Fabio Capello who was watching from the stands.
The Three Lions were taking on Wales in their last game of the season, and after a word of encouragement from Capello, went on to a comfortable win in Wrexham, despite being put under pressure by Brian Flynn's side in the opening stages.
It was from the penalty mark that England took the lead, a cool finish from Tom Huddlestone after 19 minutes following a foul on Adam Johnson inside the box.
Theo Walcott edged England further in front six minutes later, courtesy of a slight deflection, which capped a direct and rapid run at the heart of the Wales defence.
The scoring may have finished there, but the season hasn't for Walcott and Huddlestone who, along with fellow Under-21 performers Gabriel Agbonlahor, David Wheater and Joe Hart, meet up with Capello’s squad next week for the games against USA and Trinidad & Tobago.
“Before the game Fabio came in,” said Pearce afterwards. “I can speak a thousand words to my players about progression from my squad, but that pales into insignificance compared to him showing his face in the dressing room.
“It's the least you expect from him because that is the kind of work ethic he has. He's not work-shy, he comes to the games and for the players it will give them a big lift.
“The fact that we have five players meeting up with the seniors next week put an extra spice on the game. All five knew he was here. They all did themselves great credit. Next week they should meet up and be ten feet tall.”
Pearce added: "We've got a squad of 31 in the seniors and the bottom line is you might lose a couple through injury - it's a perfect opportunity with the two matches to look at one or two of them.
"If any of these get on the pitch, they will do themselves credit."
Pearce will also meet up with the seniors in his role as coach in Capello’s backroom team, but on Thursday he was pleased with the performance of the Young Lions, who are almost certain of a place in the UEFA European Championship play-offs following an unbeaten season.
With one game left in the qualifying group, against Portugal in September, the work put in so far on and off the pitch means England are in a commanding position to reach next summer’s Finals in Sweden.
The match at Wrexham may have been a friendly, but it was another opportunity for Pearce to fine-tune his squad as they approach the final hurdle.
“I learned a lot,” Pearce said. “I know Michael Mancienne can play centre-half. Tom Huddlestone is improving, Adam Johnson and Theo are getting better with every game.
“We finished the season unbeaten and that is all you can ask for as a manager.”
1 Wayne Hennessey, 2 Neal Eardley (15 Christian Ribeiro, 63), 3 Joe Jacobson (c), 4 Jack Collison, 5 Chris Gunter, 6 Lewin Nyatanga, 7 David Cotterill (16 Nicky Adams, 77), 8 David Edwards, 9 Sam Vokes (18 Simon Church, 63), 10 Ched Evans (20 Craig Davies, 77), 11 Shaun McDonald.
Subs not used 12 Grant Basey, 14 Mike Williams, 17 Mark Bradley, 19 Marc Williams, 21 Owain Fon Williams
Manager Brian Flynn
1 Joe Hart (13 Joe Lewis, 46), 2 Martin Cranie, 3 Andrew Taylor (16 Jamie O’Hara, 57), 4 Lee Cattermole, 5 Michael Mancienne, 6 David Wheater (c) (14 Scott Dann, 46), 7 Theo Walcott, 8 Tom Huddlestone, 9 Gabriel Agbonlahor (17 Dexter Blackstock, 57), 10 Grant Leadbitter (15 Fabrice Muamba, 72), 11 Adam Johnson (12 Ryan Shawcross, 86)
Coach Stuart Pearce
Referee Alan Black (Northern Ireland)
Assistants Paul Munn and Dan Steele (both Northern Ireland)
Fourth Official Lee Evans (Wales)