Noel Blake outlines the importance of international youth tournaments
by Jamie Reid
England U19s Head Coach Noel Blake says the significance of youth tournaments in a young player’s development cannot be underestimated.
Blake highlighted a number of players now plying their trade at the very top level of English and European football, pointing to the experience gained from competing at youth European Championships and World Cups as a vital part of their progression to the senior ranks.
He said: “This is what the tournaments are for – they are development tournaments and that’s exactly what they should be used for.
“Rather than people coming in later on in their careers having never played tournament football, if we qualify for these tournaments then you get that experience and that’s what it’s all about. You’re building your stock.”
Blake is currently with the squad in Slovenia as they embark on the first phase of their qualifying campaign for the 2014 UEFA European U19 Championship.
The Young Lions drew their opening game of the mini-tournament against host Slovenia on Thursday
– and face Andorra and Switzerland before returning to England, knowing that only a place in the top two positions of the group will be enough to guarantee a spot in the Elite Round of qualification next spring.
And Blake pointed to the likes of Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley and Daniel Sturridge - all now regular starters for club and country, and all with significant tournament experience behind them at youth level - as examples of how these tournaments aid the development process.
Welbeck has featured in a European Championship and a World Cup at U17 level, Wilshere has also been to the European U17 Championship with England, while Sturridge, who won his first England cap with the U16s in 2004 and was a regular scorer at all age levels, went to the U19 finals in Turkey in 2008.
Ross Barkley, meanwhile, has represented his country at multiple levels of youth football, and was a member of the England team that won the 2010 UEFA European U17 Championship in Liechtenstein
- and Blake insists that qualifying for, and taking part in, the development tournaments is all part of a vital learning curve for the next generation of English footballers.
He added: “These guys have had tournament experience and that can only be beneficial to their development.
“If we can keep giving these players tournaments, by the time they get to the seniors they will have several tournaments under their belts and that’s great.
“There is a marked difference when the players come to their second and third tournaments, compared to their first.
“Compared to a friendly game, tournament football is totally different. It’s about getting into that mindset when the games are coming thick and fast.
“We have three games in six days here, that’s a tough ask at this stage of their development – but it will be good for them.”
Next up for Noel Blake’s U19s are Andorra, who the Young Lions face in Pjut at 2pm on Saturday 12 October.