The U17s' season will begin against Denmark in the Nordics.
England U17 v Denmark
The Nordic Tournament
Tuesday 28 July 2009
The England U17 team will get their season underway on Tuesday when they take on Denmark in the Nordic Tournament.
Within the space of four days, The Young Lions will also face Faroe Islands and tournament hosts, Norway; a hectic start to what they hope will be a successful campaign. Last year’s U17s made it through to the Finals of the UEFA European U17 Championship and Kenny Swain believes the winning mentality already evidenced by this new crop should stand them in good stead in the coming months.
After winning the Victory Shield and the Montaigu Tournament last season as U16s, Swain is hopeful they will continue to improve and progress through the England development squads.
"We are optimistic about the prospects of this year group," said Swain, who supervised the U16s’ collection of the two aforementioned competitions.
"They’ve made huge strides since last year, both as individuals and as a squad. Their level of game understanding is as good as I’ve ever experienced.
"This has been a very productive year group. We've had a proper look at about 30 players now, in the Victory Shield, at the Montaigu’s and here in Norway and it bodes well. We’re looking at some new players and some players that have only had a bit of exposure with us, so this has been a great exercise."
Swain revealed that all the players have done well in training in the lead up to the opening game, though David Atkinson has returned to England due to illness. He has been replaced by Connor Thomas from Coventry City, who has joined up with an England squad for the first time.
Martin Thomas has been assisting Swain in Norway, fresh from helping Stuart Pearce at the European Under-21 Championship in Sweden, and after more than a decade coaching at Nottingham Forest, John Pemberton is also in Norway lending his expertise in training.
Between the three of them they know that recovery will be an important aspect of this tournament, as England potentially face four games in six days, but Swain is confident the players’ previous experiences will help them to cope with the physically demanding schedule.
"Having played in the Montaigu Tournament in France they now understand the demands of tournament football. They faced similar challenges there and they coped very well, so I'm confident they’ll do the same in the Nordics.
"This is a very similar format, where we’ll have so many games in a small space of time, so the experience they gained at the Montaigu’s will certainly be beneficial."
It may still, technically, be pre-season, but Swain has urged his players to stake their claim for a place in the squad for England’s next round of European qualifiers which will commence in Azerbaijan in October.
"That is an immediate target," he said.
"The 18 boys that are here, and even the ones that have been involved in the past, have to push their way into the squad ready for the qualifying round and that will be another fantastic experience for them."
However, Swain’s focus remains firmly on the Nordics, which should act as ideal preparation for the rigours ahead.
"Denmark in the first game is a big challenge," Swain predicted.
"Denmark, Sweden and Norway will all pose their own threat and the Scandinavian teams are always quite strong. And looking at the other group, we obviously should not discount Scotland, who we faced in the Victory Shield last year.
"It should be a difficult test, but one we're looking forward to and we're confident the players will gain a lot from it as well."