Stuart Pearce praises England Under-21s current crop of goalkeepers
Stuart Pearce believes he now has the strongest pool of goalkeeping talent to pick from in his five years in charge after England Under-21s kept their seventh clean sheet in nine competitive games.
The Three Lions need a draw in Serbia in Tuesday's Euro 2013 play-off second leg following a 1-0 victory in the home game at Norwich
on Friday. Another shut-out would be enough to see them into the Finals for a fourth time in succession.
Pearce's defence has been a key part of his side as they successfully reached the play-offs. The Young Lions have not conceded a goal since November last year as the defenders have accounted for nine of the goals scored. An impressive return.
But the Coach has praised his four goalkeepers after just three goals against in qualifying so far.
Team GB stopper Jack Butland
, who is back in the side after being in Roy Hodgson's first two senior squads of the season, is Pearce's first choice, but he also has Jason Steele
, Ben Amos
and Declan Rudd
to select from.
While Norwich City stopper Rudd is yet to feature, Amos and Steele have both kept clean sheets this campaign.
"People say sometimes that at international level there is a dearth of goalkeeping talent, but I can’t agree," Pearce told TheFA.com.
"We have four goalkeepers in this squad, with Jack Butland coming back in, and it’s the strongest set of keepers I have ever had with the Under-21s. And I include the Joe Hart era in that.
"They are all talented young men, pushing each other for a start. And while I was disappointed to lose Butland to the senior squad last time, the keepers who have come in have done themselves proud.
"It was a real bonus to be able to have a look at both of Steele and Amos last month. Steeley and Ben have been in outstanding form for Middlesbrough and Hull this season and it’s a real healthy area for us in the squad."
But Pearce says it was going forward that his team have to improve. The narrow advantage over Serbia in the first leg could, and perhaps should, have been made more comfortable, but for a host of chances not being taken.
However, he was impressed by debutant Raheem Sterling
after the Liverpool winger looked at home in the Under-21s side and hopes that he can have an impact out in Serbia.
"I think he did well, offensively as a team we did well in patches and let ourselves down in patches," he said.
"What you can't lose track of, and it is important especially for someone like myself, is that Raheem is 17 years old so he is a real young player who is coming in to play at the highest level of his career so far.
"It was a big game for him, I'm pleased that he has been on the pitch and had a good run out and he will be better for that come Tuesday."
Tuesday's Euro 2013 play-off second leg in Serbia will be live on ESPN. Kick off is 5pm BST