Pearce prepares for new campaign
Monday, 10 August, 2009
Under-21s Coach Stuart Pearce begins new season with Dutch test.
As England prepare for the start of a new European Championship campaign, Coach Stuart Pearce hopes his new-look squad can continue the progress of the last two tournaments.
Little more than a month after their Final defeat at the hands of Germany, England are about to embark on their first match of the new season.
A meeting with the Netherlands at the Euroborg Stadium in Groningen will give Pearce the chance to see his new side for the first time before they begin their qualifying group games away to Macedonia and Greece next month.
However, Pearce will still have a few familiar faces in his squad, with eight players from the Finals in Sweden making the trip to Groningen, along with eleven others who have impressed Pearce over recent months.
The coach looks back on the tournament in the summer with mixed feelings. After guiding England to their first Final at Under-21 level for 25 years, the 4-0 loss to Germany was ultimately a disappointing end for England.
However, with lessons learned, Pearce is aiming to go one better but knows his team must first negotiate a tough qualifying group.
'"It's bitter-sweet memories," Pearce told TheFA.com. "Our planning and preparation was geared up towards us winning the tournament and having not come back with the trophy is disappointing.
"But if the last game is taken out of the equation, nine out of ten boxes were ticked. The training camp, the staff and the work that went into it was absolutely top notch.
"We needed to win 15 matches to win the tournament and we got results in 14 of them. There was a lot of good points to take out of it and a lot of players enhanced their reputations from this tournament and hopefully they’ll kick on and push for the seniors."
Pearce continued: "In the main, it was a fantastic tournament to be involved in and very pleasing from my point of view. We can now look back and say that, over a two year period, we’ve had a semi-final and a final.
"Now we need to keep going forward and hopefully go one step further next time.
"Ten of the players we took go again this time around. Two years ago we had maybe five or six players with that experience going into the new campaign.
"The mix of those going this time are very much in the defence and central area of midfield, more so than in the wide areas and up front, which in itself might cause a problem to us. But there will be players who have not made their mark yet at club level who’ll come through."
And Tuesday night's meeting with the Dutch will provide an opportunity for those players new to the squad to stake a claim for the new campaign.
It's also a return to the Netherlands for Pearce, who led England to the European Championship semi-final there two years ago and he's pleased to be taking on one of Europe's big teams as he looks ahead to two hard away qualifiers in early September.
"We’re playing against one of the top-line nations in Europe," he added. "The good thing is over the last six months, we’ve taken on some big nations.
"This is going to be a very important game for us, we’re starting again with a new group of players, a new campaign and straight after this game we’re going to be in a situation where we’re into five qualifiers in a short space of time."
Pearce added: "We’re in a very tough group, and I think it’ll be tougher than last time’s qualifying. Greece are an outstanding side, Portugal are too and Lithuania and Macedonia are no pushovers.
"Whoever gets out of this group and makes it to the play-offs are going to have their work cut out."
Watch the full interview in video by clicking on the icon in the top right of the screen.
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