Blake ready for 'big test'
By Nicholas Veevers
Tuesday, 31 May, 2011
Head Coach speaks ahead of Elite Round opener with Montenegro.
England U19s Head Coach Noel Blake takes his side into Euro qualification action on Tuesday evening when Montenegro are the opposition in Switzerland.
It’s the first of three games in the Elite Qualifying Round for Blake’s team as they bid to reach the last eight of this competition for the fourth successive year.
Blake knows that it isn’t going to be easy for his side though, with matches against Switzerland and Spain also to come over the next few days as all four teams battle it out for top spot in the group.
The Young Lions have been hit by injury ahead of the games too with five of the original 18-man squad having had to withdraw but Blake feels it will be a great challenge and experience for his players.
“It will be a big test for us, no question,” said Blake.
“We have three different challenges in each game but these are the sort of challenges that we want for our players.”
The Elite Round stages are always notoriously tricky to negotiate in any year, which makes England’s recent record in the U19 Championship even more impressive.
Whilst the opener with Montenegro appears on paper to be the least daunting of the three games, Blake knows that won’t be the case.
“Montenegro will be an eastern-European type team, in terms of their physicality and technical ability,” he added.
“So they will be a different proposition to the other teams and they will make it hard for us.
“Switzerland are the home nation and they won the U17 World Cup in this year group two years ago.
“And then Spain are always seen as favourites by most people in every age group from the U16s to the Seniors.
“So it’s three different types of test for us and against three decent sides, so it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to.”