Stuart Pearce and three of his squad made a trip to a Nottingham school last week.
England v France
8pm, Tuesday 31 March 2009
The City Ground, Nottingham Forest FC
Ticket Details £10 for adults and £5 for concessions, call 0871 226 1980.
During each England Under-21 get-together, Stuart Pearce and his players go out among community clubs and projects to visit the players, coaches, referees, volunteers and supporters who make up the grassroots game.
And last week was no exception. As the team prepared for their trip to Norway and Tuesday’s match at Nottingham Forest, Pearce and a trio of players went out into the community once again.
Pearce was joined by players Tom Huddlestone, James Milner and Adam Johnson and arrived at Fernwood Comprehensive School in Wollaton, where they met with Ricky Stevenson from Nottinghamshire County FA.
After speaking to the gathered media in the school hall, Stuart and the players headed out to the artificial turf pitch where the youngsters from Wollaton Hall Juniors were being put through their paces.
The boys and girls from The FA Charter Standard Club were delighted to see their heroes and after their training session finished, they some posed questions to the England men.
“What’s your favourite position?” asked one of the children. Pearce, a left-back who represented England 78 times, joked: “I would have liked to have played up front to score more goals!”
The quartet were then asked to give some advice to the keen young players, who would no doubt love to emulate their heroes in the future.
“The key is to ask yourself why you want to become a professional in the first place?” said Pearce. “You do it because you love the game.”
“When you get to the standard of these three here,” he added, gesturing toward his charges, “it’s your professionalism that makes you stand out from the rest.
“There’s a lot of people who grew up with these players who may have had as much ability, but probably didn’t have the dedication. If you take that on to the England Senior Squad, the real top players, their commitment to their football is immense.”
Milner added: “You have to make sacrifices. You may see your friends going out and staying out late, but if you want to get to where you want to, you have to make those sacrifices.”
At the end of the session Pearce, Johnson, Milner and Huddlestone were happy to sign autographs and have photographs taken with the many children who turned up to see The Three Lions close up.
Pearce added: “It's nice for us to be able to put a bit back into the community. The players enjoyed the afternoon too. We try to have a rotation system, so as many players as possible can get involved over the season – and they've been very forthcoming in giving up their time.”