Stuart Pearce believes that the two legged Play-Off with Wales will be a great experience for his players.
Wales v England
2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship Play-Off First Leg
7.45pm, Friday 10 October 2008
Ninian Park, Cardiff City FC
Second Leg: 7.45pm, Tuesday 14 October 2008, Aston Villa FC
England Under-21 Coach Stuart Pearce takes his side into the first leg of their Play-Off with Wales knowing that whatever the outcome, it will be a great experience for the players.
The Lions know that if they can see off the Welsh over the two games, they will be heading to Sweden next summer for the European Under-21 Championship finals and after having a taste of tournament life in the previous finals last year, Pearce believes it is a fantastic opportunity for everyone concerned.
“It's going to be a fantastic game for both sets of players,” said Pearce, ahead of Friday’s game at Ninian Park.
“There is plenty at stake and both teams want to qualify. We had a taste of it and we know the exposure the tournament has - it's the only tournament at that time of the year and doesn't clash with the two England senior games in the summer. There is no overlap and whoever gets there will have a fantastic time.
“One team will be disappointed but both sets of players and both managers will have had a fantastic experience of what it is like at the sharp end of knockout football.”
There is certain to be a fierce atmosphere in the Welsh capital for the game, before the teams head to Villa Park for the second leg next Tuesday and Pearce believes his players are more than ready for the first match.
“We know it will be difficult over a two-legged situation and the players are acutely aware of what is facing us,” he added. “But we're confident in our own ability, as the Welsh will be.
“I don't think complacency will ever be an issue. We know what is in front of us and we know it will be difficult.
“When the ante is pushed up, that is when the experience kicks in.”
Whilst England’s qualifying campaign has gone swimmingly so far, Brian Flynn’s Wales side have been equally as impressive in their group.
Not only that, but many of their players who have been involved in the qualifying have now been rewarded with call-ups and caps for the senior Wales team.
The likes of Wayne Hennesy, Sam Vokes, Gareth Bale, Chris Gunter and Ched Evans have all been regulars for Flynn’s team but are now part of John Toshack’s senior squad so are not amongst the group to face England.
Pearce is refusing to let their absence affect his team’s preparation though, whilst he also knows that he is missing a number of experienced players himself.
“They would probably prefer to pick them, just as I would like to pick Micah Richards, Michael Johnson and Nedum Onuoha,” he said.
“So both teams are in the same boat. It's the strongest squad of Under-21 players Wales have had that I can remember and that is credit to Flynny for bringing them through.
“When some of their players went to the seniors, the Under-21s still got a 3-0 win in Romania. That takes some doing. We drew 1-1 with Romania and they are a very good side.”
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