Pearce: It means a lot
Tuesday, 12 October, 2010
Head Coach sees his Young Lions reach third consecutive Euros.
Stuart Pearce praised his Young Lions after holding out for a nervy 0-0 draw against Romania to secure their berth at the 2011 European Under-21s Championship.
Having registered a 2-1 victory in the first leg of their Euro play-off at Carrow Road on Friday night, the England Under-21s Head Coach took his squad to Botosani knowing the tie was still very much in the balance. And at times the tense nature of the occasion was clear to see in the England players.
"On Friday we played extremely well, today we didn't play extremely well,” said Pearce after England had ground out the necessary result.
"What we did show was determination and it was a really gutsy performance, certainly from the goalkeeper [Frankie Fielding]. Right through the team we showed guts and a few things were said at half-time in the dressing room, and the players took that on board I thought.”
In front of a noisy, partisan crowd, there were a few hairy moments for Pearce’s men as their 2-1 advantage looked under threat on more than one occasion – the Romanians knowing only victory would be good enough to send them through.
"Sometimes I'm not sure English teams are particularly good at defending leads,” said Pearce. “I think we come with the mentality that it would be easy and we didn't put enough energy in to our performance.
“Credit to Romania, they went after the game and put us on the back foot and we had to defend stoutly. We were hoping to catch them on the counter-attack but we never got a finishing touch when we did break their back line.”
With the England goal under attack, Pearce praised his ‘keeper Fielding for keeping the Romanian’s at bay.
"He was fantastic. He's got a knack of keeping the ball out of the net and I think he’s only conceded one goal in six games. There were some really tricky shots today with this ball [the Jabulani] and they really peppered the goal.
"He kept his eye on everything and kept us a clean sheet, which is all you can ask of him. He's delivered today and so has the rest of the team.”
The nature of the performance may not have been entirely to Pearce’s liking but the outcome certainly was, and the legendary England left-back believes his side deserve their place at their third successive European Championship.
He now has eight months to further galvanise his squad in preparation for the Finals in Denmark and is confident the togetherness of this group of players will help them achieve their potential on the pitch.
"Make no mistake, [to qualify] means a lot to those players. I'm fortunate enough to see the camaraderie every day; everything they do around the hotel and on the training pitch as well, the players have got a real togetherness about them and when you've got that you take it to the training pitch and away from it and it builds, and when you get a little bit of adversity, like we had today, it manifests itself.
"Credit to them - only the players can generate that amongst themselves.
"We've got eight months to build on going to a major Finals. I don't think there's another major nation that have played at Under-21 level that have been to three European Finals, so credit to this group and the groups that have gone before them.
"I am really looking forward to working with this group again.”