Pearce looking for improvement
Jamie Bradbury in Colchester
Wednesday, 09 November, 2011
Three Lions boss hopes big Colchester crowd can give England the edge.
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Stuart Pearce is looking for his Under-21s team to improve on their performance in Reykjavik a month ago as they welcome Iceland to Colchester’s Weston Homes Community Stadium on Thursday night.
Although England won 3-0 thanks to a hat-trick from Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Pearce is expecting a much tougher game when they face their UEFA European Under-21 Championship Group 8 qualifying rivals in front of a sell-out crowd in Essex.
The Three Lions currently sit top of the table with maximum points from their three qualifiers so far, and with the Iceland game followed swiftly on Monday by a trip to Belgium to wrap up the fixtures calendar for 2011, Pearce hopes his team can extend their advantage.
“Last month we went and won in Iceland, and since then their squad has improved with one coming in from the seniors and another holding midfielder,” revealed Pearce. “I think we were very fortunate, we didn’t play particularly well away in Reykjavik, but we were pleased with the result.
“I feel as though we’ll learn a lot from that game, and we’ll need to play better as it will certainly be tougher this time. This is not a game we can take lightly but it’s a good opportunity for us to put the other teams in the group under pressure.”
Once again, Pearce has called a number of new players into his squad following injuries to key figures such as Henri Lansbury and Connor Wickham, and the senior team call up for Jack Rodwell. 36 players have so far featured in squads for Pearce this season, as the team have maintained a 100 percent record with four wins from four outings. The coach now hopes that the new influx will continue to take their opportunities to impress.
“We have five or six new faces again in this squad and that has happened in each get-together this season,” he said. “Every time we think we’ve got a settled group of players, all of a sudden we get a couple or injuries or players go into the senior squad, and then new players get the chance to show us what they can do.
“The people who are in on a regular basis need to become school masters pretty quickly.”
After netting his match-winning treble in Iceland last month, Pearce felt that Chamberlain’s follow-up performance in Norway four days later was not as dominant, but says the young Gunner is an exciting prospect and is still learning and developing his game.
“There were one or two things we weren’t pleased with in regards to his play in Norway, but the only way you find that out is by putting him on the pitch, letting him make mistakes, letting him flourish. We’ll praise him for the good things and point him in the right direction for the other parts of his game. But that’s the case for all the players in our squad.
He added: “Alex is an improving talent, Arsenal believe he is, I know Southampton did and he’s played extremely well for us. He’ll get better and better the more games he plays, he’s very level-headed and it’s important he has a good head on his shoulders.”
This week’s visit to the 10,000-seater home of League One U’s is the second time in little over a year that the Under-21s have appeared at the ground. A 3-0 win over Lithuania, which sealed qualification to Euro 2011, made for a good night for England, so Pearce is pleased to be heading back. He was thankful for the help of everyone at the club and in the town for helping generate a full-house and hopes the support will give his team the edge.
“On Thursday evening, with a full-house at Wembley against Spain to come on Saturday, we’ll be playing in front of a sell-out in Colchester and our U19s will be playing in front of a sell-out in Brighton.
“That goes to show the support we have and we are very proud to have that. From a football point of view it might also give us the edge in a game we are looking to win and it could help a lot,” he added.
“Colchester have looked after us fantastically well, this is our second time in just over a year, and both times we’ve had a great response from the club and the town. We’re looking forward to the game now.”
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