Sterling impresses Pearce
Thursday, 11 October, 2012
Stuart Pearce says Raheem Sterling has been 'outstanding' in training for U21s
Stuart Pearce is expecting England’s Euro 2013 play-off double-header with Serbia to go right to the wire.
With a place in Israel next summer the prize on offer to the winners, the Under-21s Coach believes the two legs will be very tight. But he is confident his side have enough to edge it and reach the Finals for a fourth time in succession.
During the preparations in Norwich ahead of Friday’s first leg, Pearce has also been impressed with Liverpool’s 17-year-old winger Raheem Sterling, who is enjoying his first taste of life in the Under-21s camp.
“Raheem has been outstanding.” said the former Three Lions defender. “He’s brought his club form into the Under-21s and looks very good.
“He was given the opportunity to go with the Seniors last month, and this time he’s got the chance to vie for a place with the Under-21s.
“He’s fitted in really well and he’s brought the confidence he’s been given by Brendan [Rodgers] with him. He’s got his tail up and looks a handful.”
However, there was some disappointing news for the Young Lions as Sterling’s Anfield team mate Andre Wisdom and Manchester United’s midfielder Nick Powell have returned to their clubs due to injury and illness.
“Andre went over on his shoulder playing for his club and it was something that just didn’t ease up at all,” revealed Pearce. “We got him on the training pitch on Wednesday but we just felt that it wasn’t easing up, so he’s gone back to Liverpool.
“Nick has had a bug since day one. We tried to give him every chance to be fit and shake it off but we’ve had to send him back to his club, too. Hopefully he’ll be back with us next month.”
After a final training session at Carrow Road on Thursday, England will line up at the Canaries home on Friday evening against a strong Serbian team who, like England, qualified for the play-offs as group winners.
Two years ago, also in Norwich, England met Romania at the same stage of the competition and took a 2-1 lead into the away leg.
They held out for a 0-0 draw to take their place at Euro 2011 and Pearce is now eyeing a similar outcome this time around.
“We’ve pulled a team out of the hat who are unbeaten in qualifying,” he said. “Defensively they are very strong and, similar to us, they have had a lot of players who have gone into the senior squad and come back down again.
“It’s going to be a tough game and I’m sure it won’t be won or lost on Friday evening, it’ll go over the two legs and will be very tight. We expect the odd goal will separate the two of us.
“In my first campaign with the Under-21s in 2007, Serbia reached the Final with the likes of [Chelsea defender Branislav] Ivanovic in the team. They are a good side and we are under no illusions about that.
“But we’re a good team, too, with some very good players, so I think it will be a great advert for Under-21s football.”
Pearce added: “We’ll be going out to try and win both games, and I’m sure Serbia will be thinking the same. They’ll want to keep it tight and try to get us back to their place and win the match from there.
“From our point of view, we’ll endeavour to get a result on Friday and I don’t see it changing when we go on the road either.”
Tickets for the game are still on sale priced at £5 for children and £10 for adults. To order online, click here