VIDEO: Phil feels at home
by Jamie Bradbury
Thursday, 07 October, 2010
Phil Jones has slotted in well to the England Under-21s set-up.
England v Romania
UEFA European Under-21 Championship 2011
Play-Off First Leg
7.30pm, Friday 8 October 2010
Carrow Road, Norwich City FC
Click here to watch the press conference with Stuart Pearce and Phil Jones.
England’s Under-21 players had the chance to try out the Carrow Road turf on Thursday ahead of their meeting with Romania in their Euro 2011 play-off first leg.
All of Stuart Pearce’s 21-man squad trained in their final full session before the big match on Friday night that is expected to break an 18-year attendance record at Norwich. Earlier this year, the Championship club added a few seats to the stands to extend the capacity of the ground by a few hundred, so it the biggest it’s been since becoming an all-seater stadium.
And after the final tickets for the important match were sold on Wednesday, Blackburn Rovers defender Phil Jones says the huge crowd can play a big part in lifting the team against a very tough opponent.
“We expect a really close encounter with Romania, we’ve studied them and know what they’re about and we’ve put into practice what we want to do in training,” he told TheFA.com.
“This is my first time at Norwich and I’ve been impressed. It’s a very nice stadium and when it’s full with a big crowd on Friday it’ll be really good. All of us are looking forward to the game, It’s going to be a great atmosphere for us to play in and hopefully the fans can be our twelfth man.
“The club has done a lot to help us this week as we’ve also played against a couple of Norwich’s academy teams at the training ground to get us prepared for the match. We’ve now got to make sure we take what we’ve learned onto the pitch on Friday.”
Jones, a tall and solid defender, looks more than his 18 years, and his performances for both club and country belie his age.
Born in Preston, he made his debut for Sam Allardyce’s men in September last year and has gone on to become a regular, playing in all nine of Rovers’ games this campaign. His displays have not gone unnoticed at international level, and the former U19 made the step up for his Under-21s debut in August.
And he’s versatile to boot. Having featured in midfield for his club of late, for Pearce’s outfit Jones has teamed up with Manchester United’s Chris Smalling in the heart of defence for the last three internationals as the Three Lions have kept consecutive clean-sheets.
England will be looking to continue that stingy run against the Romanians over the two legs, but while Jones will be aiming to do his bit at the back, he recognises the need for the team to score goals to take with them for the return match in Botosani on Tuesday afternoon.
“We’ll be looking to score a few goals, especially with this crowd and being at home as we want to take a good lead with us to Romania,” he said.
“Everyone in this squad has a lot of quality and they are a great group of lads to be around. They’re all full of confidence and looking to get a good result at Carrow Road.
“We’re gelling together really well and it’s only been a relatively short time for some of us in this squad, like me, who only came into the set-up in August. But we have a great spirit and long get-togethers like this gives us the chance to bond more as a team and it can only have a positive effect on the pitch."
He added: “For me it’s an honour to represent your country at any level. I played for the U19s last summer and I really enjoyed that, but to get the Under-21 call-up at the start of the season was a dream come true.
“I’m loving every minute of it, I’m playing regularly for my club in the Premier League and have been involved in this squad with England so I couldn’t ask for any more at the minute.
“Just to be a part of the Championship next summer would be a massive thing for all of us as players and gives us a huge incentive tomorrow night. But we have to concentrate on that first and make sure we get the win we want on Friday.”
Although tickets for the game on Friday night are sold out, fans can still watch the game live on ESPN. Alternatively, you can follow the updates here on TheFA.com.
Supporters heading to Norwich with tickets should get to Carrow Road early to avoid possible congestion around the ground and delays at the turnstiles.