By Nicholas Veevers
Friday, 25 May, 2012
Head Coach Noel Blake looks ahead to tonight's game with Slovenia in Preston.
UEFA European U19 Championship
Elite Qualifying Round
25-30 May 2012
England, Montenegro, Slovenia, Switzerland
Deepdale, Preston & Spotland, Rochdale
Ticket line 0844 856 1966 (Preston) and 0844 826 1907 (Rochdale)
Noel Blake takes his England U19 squad into competitive action this evening for the first time this season, as their bid to reach the last eight of the European Championship begins.
The Young Lions take on Slovenia at Preston North End’s Deepdale home in what is the first of three games in the Elite Qualifying Round, with only one team from the four nation group progressing to July’s Finals in Estonia.
As one of the seeded nations, England were given a bye through the First Qualifying Round last October but have played six tough matches over the course of the season in preparation for this week’s games and Head Coach Blake wants to see his players make a bright start to the group.
“It’s the first game, and the first game of any tournament like this is important as it can set the tone for the rest of the week,” he explained.
“Obviously we want to get off to a good start, but we know it won’t be an easy game for us. I’ve said it before, but there are no easy games at international level these days.
“Slovenia are a developing nation and have made some big strides over the last few years. Their senior team were at the World Cup and the last Euros and their development teams have done well in recent seasons.”
Blake expects Friday’s opponents to try and test England’s ability to break them down in a somewhat solid structure, so knows it will be a case of patience and concentration for the players at Deepdale.
“I expect we will have to be patient, I think they will line up in a very typical Eastern European style and will be well organised defensively and tough to break down,” he added.
“We will need to be patient, whilst also making sure that we are fully concentrated when it comes to defending because they will look to counter attack.
“So if there is the slightest break in concentration, you can be punished very quickly and then you might find yourself a goal down.”
With England having two games at Deepdale over the next six days, coupled with Sunday’s match against Montenegro at Rochdale’s Spotland, Blake is hoping the local fans will come out and support his team.
“We’re looking forward to playing at Preston, it’s a famous ground and it’s what I would call a real football town,” he said.
“I hope the fans can come out and get behind us, because that is one of the advantages we can have by hosting this tournament.
“It can give the players a real boost, so hopefully we can put on a good performance and get the result we want to start us off.
“We’ve had a good few days of training so far, the lads have gelled well and worked hard and we all want to perform well this week and qualify.”
Tickets for Friday's game cost just £3 for adults and £1 for concessions and you can pay on the night.