'Wembley experience can help players'
Thursday, 12 November, 2009
Stuart Pearce believes the Wembley factor will benefit England's young stars
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England Under-21s Coach Stuart Pearce says that Saturday's game at Wembley is a chance for his young players to experience the big game atmosphere of Wembley Stadium where he hopes that one day many of them will get to play regularly.
The Three Lions meet Portugal in a vital Group Nine Qualifier with a place in the 2011 Finals in Denmark the aim. But as well as the team's success, Pearce would love to see more of the Under-21 stars follow in the footsteps of players from his former crop such as James Milner and Gabby Agbonlahor.
And he believes that any experience that can help them become more accomplished senior internationals can only benefit the players and the country.
"We want to be able to give these players the best experiences possible as they develop and mature, and playing at Wembley in front of a big crowd is one of the major parts of being an England international," Pearce told TheFA.com.
"If these young players can get a feel for the national stadium and what it’s like, hopefully sometime in the future a few of them will be stepping out for the seniors here on a regular basis.
"It’s served us well in the past with the likes of Gabriel Agbonlahor and James Milner, among others, who have made that next step since our last outing here just over a year ago when we beat Portugal 2-0."
And another victory on Saturday would go a long way to helping England achieve their first goal of getting back to the Euro Finals, as well as making life extremely difficult for ex-Portuguese International Oceano Cruz, coach of the visitors.
Portugal lie third in the group after three matches, three points behind second-placed England. Both sides know that a win is important to keep hot on the heels of early leaders Greece.
The Portuguese face Greece on Tuesday, while England travel to Lithuania, so the next few days could shape the destiny of the group.
"It’s certainly an interesting game and we know full well that if we can get our third victory this afternoon Portugal will have it all to do to qualify," continued Pearce.
"With Greece in such a strong position, these next two games, today and on Tuesday when we play against Lithuania in Vilnius, are two we just cannot afford to lose, it’s as simple as that.
"Even if we get maximum points, we could still be three points behind Greece if they manage to win in Portugal in midweek, so the group is finely balanced."
Pearce, who misses the England Senior Team trip to Qatar for the meeting with Brazil, says the chance of a game at Wembley was one not to let go and says the players must make the most of it.
"I’m really disappointed not able to go," he said, "but the opportunity for the Under-21s to experience Wembley on the same day was too good to turn down.
"I will encourage them all to make the most of this occasion, enjoy the game and hopefully enjoy the result."
For those fans not going to Wembley, you can still watch the game live, and for free, here on TheFA.com. The match kicks off at 12.30pm and will be streamed at www.TheFA.com/FATV.