Gareth Southgate admits he's looking forward to seeing his side in action on Thursday
England v Moldova
UEFA European Under-21 Championship 2013-15
Qualifying Group One
7.45pm, Thursday 5 September 2013
The Madejski Stadium, Reading FC
Live on BT Sport
Call 0844 249 1871 for tickets
England Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate admits he can’t wait to see his squad in action on Thursday when they kick-off their Euro Qualifiers against Moldova.
The Three Lions have been with Southgate at St. George’s Park since Sunday and the Head Coach has been delighted with their contribution so far.
With a fresh group put together for the start of this campaign, featuring a mixture of new players at Under-21 level and some of those who featured in previous years, Southgate hopes the initial spirit can be maintained.
He said: “It’s always the case with a new qualification period that there’s a new group of players coming through and one or two who have played in the side previously.
“This time, with a different group of staff and for myself and Steve Holland, it’s been a fresh challenge and we’ve really enjoyed it.
“The guys that are here have been very bright in training and we’re actually spoilt for choice in several areas of the field.
“It’s a shame for the lads that aren’t here but we’re looking forward to seeing the guys that are here play on Thursday night.”
After starting the season with an impressive 6-0 victory over Scotland under the charge of Roy Hodgson last month, the Under-21s have set a high marker for Southgate.
With Hodgson’s senior squad also at St. George’s Park in preparation for their own match against Moldova, including Under-21s Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley, he’s been able to keep in touch with Southgate’s group.
And that is something which Southgate is more than happy with, acting as a real incentive for his players to impress and improve.
He added: “It’s a brilliant opportunity for them and it’s one of the beauties of training at St. George’s Park.
“Six or seven of lads trained with the seniors on Monday, which we couldn’t do if we were playing somewhere else.
“Myself and Roy have spoken very carefully about all of this and I think it’s a very positive thing for us.
“The most important thing for us and everyone in the country over the next few months is that England qualify for the World Cup and if that means that these lads are benefiting from being in the senior squad, whether that’s training or playing, that’s the most important thing.
“If they’re back with our group in the future, we’ll be delighted to have them even though our job is to get them back up into the seniors.
“They know that if they do well with their clubs and they do well with us, then Roy’s very much looking at them and there’s a chance of them going into the senior squad.
“He’s coming to the game on Thursday and we’re all trying to work as closely as possible. It’s no different to a club situation, we’re here to support Roy and the senior team first and foremost.”
Southgate wants his England side to excite the crowd and play with freedom and expression, so Thursday’s game at the Madejski Stadium promises to be an interesting encounter.
But he also wants his players to enjoy themselves and feel the benefits of developing as players and that’s a message that has been put across to the squad this week.
“We’ve spoken to the players this week and it’s not just about winning matches, it’s about the way that we want to play and we’re also part of the development,” he explained.
“Clubs do the majority of that work with their players, but we want this experience to be one that is enjoyable and one that they feel they come away from having learnt something.”
Watch video of Gareth’s press conference ahead of the game with Moldova in the video player below or through the icon to the right of your screen.