Noel Blake says it's vital his U19s hit the ground running in Belgium
England v Georgia
UEFA European U19 Championship
Elite Round Qualifier
5pm BST, Friday 24 May 2013
Noel Blake has said it is essential his England U19s get off to a good start in today's UEFA European Elite Qualifying Round opening match.
The four-team mini tournament kicks off in Bomem, Belgium, when England take on Georgia.
With games against the hosts and an encounter with ‘the Auld Enemy’ Scotland to follow over the next five days, and only the group winner progressing to the Finals in Lithuania, the Head Coach is under no illusions about the importance of getting off to a good start.
He said: “I think in any tournament experience tells you that you need to get off to a good start.
"It’s really important you’re still in the tournament after game one. If you have a bad result in the first game you could find yourself chasing – so it’s crucial we come out of the game in a positive light - and the key the that is a good performance.
“A good performance is crucial. There’s no guarantees though because there’s also a thing called the opposition, but from our point of view it’s important we’re still competing in after game one."
The Young Lions go into the campaign in a rich vein of form following three successive victories, and Blake was keen to point out that despite travelling with a much changed squad, they have impressed in the build up to the games in Belgium.
He added: “It’s a new group. It’s obviously been well documented that a number of the lads have moved up to the U20s, and some to the U21s. But this is a good group. I have to say I’ve been very pleased with them, with their attitudes and the way they apply themselves to training.
"They’ve done really well and they can be proud of themselves up until now."
Should his side progress this week, it would be the fourth time Blake has taken England to a European U19s Championship. Having reached the semi-finals in the previous two, and the Final in his first [in 2008] he is determined to go one better in 2013.
He said: “It’s not about me. It never has been. For me it’s always been about the development of the players and to get into a mentality of them performing to the best of their abilities.
“Of course we want to win tournaments, that goes without saying. The lads would love to come away with a medal. We’ve been to Finals before with the U19s before and we’ve seen what a number of those boys have gone on to the senior – the likes of Kyle Walker, Danny Welbeck.
"That’s the objective for me – to get these boys pushed on, to the U21s and then the seniors. Like I said – they’ve applied themselves really well so far, and all being well we’ll come away from Belgium with a desirable outcome."
After today's game, England face Belgium on 26 May, before completing the tournament with a fixture against Scotland on 29 May.