England defender ready for Elite Qualifying Round.
England v Bosnia-Herzegovina
UEFA European U19 Championship
Elite Qualifying Round
7pm, Wednesday 27 May 2009
Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster Rovers FC
Ticket Hotline: 01302 762576
Jordan Spence will lead out England on Wednesday night knowing more than most just how important it can be to win the first game of an Elite Qualifying Round.
The defender is one of the more experienced players in Brian Eastick’s squad, having skippered his country at U16 and U17 level previously and featuring in the final stages of the U17 European Championship and World Cup two years ago.
England know that if they want to reach the last eight of this year’s Championship in Ukraine, they need to finish top of their group and a win in the opening game can prove vitally important.
“I’ve experienced before with the U17s how important the first game can be,” revealed the West Ham United ace.
“I remember once we had to get all nine points to qualify from the group at U17 level.
“In many ways this is the hardest part of the European Championship, winning this Elite Round group, so the first game is vital.”
The Young Lions entertain Bosnia-Herzegovina in Doncaster in their opening game and whilst the opposition are something of an unknown quantity, Spence has good memories of the last time they met in an U17 qualifier in Sarajevo.
“We beat them 5-0 and played really well that day under some difficult conditions,” he recalled.
“But we know that you can never take any opposition for granted and tonight we will hopefully perform well enough.
“If we do perform to our potential, we should win the game.
“We’re looking forward to it though and any time that you get the opportunity to come and play for England, we all look forward to it.
“That’s particularly true in a competitive tournament, as it adds a little bit more spice to it.”
The squad met at their base in Sheffield over the weekend to begin their preparations for tonight’s match and Spence believes the spirit amongst the group can only help as they set out to reach Ukraine in July.
“The mood’s good at the moment,” he revealed.
“There are a few new faces in this particular squad but everyone has bedded in well.
“You always find in this age group that there is a good bunch of lads and everyone is just looking forward to getting the games up and running.”
It has been something of a transitional season for the U19s too, with Head Coach Eastick using a number of friendly games to look at his options and that has seen a new influx of players winning international caps for the first time at this level.
The likes of Nile Ranger, Andrew Tutte, Martin Kelly and Martyn Waghorn have all made England debuts this season and are now involved in this squad so Spence knows the strength in depth can only help.
“We’ve seen a lot more faces this season than we have previously, which is good for competition for places,” he said.
“It can only improve the performances because everyone knows that there’s not only one or two players competing for their position, there’s three or four really good players.
“So we all have to really up our own game if we want to be here and be part of the squad.”
Of course, Spence will have the honour of skippering the team on Wednesday and that is something he is delighted to do again.
“It’s a great honour, which I’ve had the privilege of doing in the past,” admitted the centre-half, who only turned 19 last Sunday.
“I haven’t had it in the past couple of games but it makes you appreciate it when you do it.
“I’ll be going out to perform well for the team and any sort of experience that I can help with then I will be quite happy to pass it on.”