Pearce wants top spot
by Jamie Bradbury
Monday, 10 September, 2012
Under-21s Coach aiming to finish qualifying group on a high against Norway
Stuart Pearce is targeting all three points against Norway in Chesterfield on Monday in a bid to avoid the international powerhouses in the Euro 2013 play-offs.
The England Under-21s Head Coach takes his team into their last Group 8 Qualifier knowing that they are all but certain of a place in next month’s knock-out double-header. And while a point will secure top spot ahead of the Norwegians, he’s looking to follow their last result against their group rivals.
A 2-1 victory in Drammen last October, thanks to early goals from Craig Dawson and Jordan Henderson, helped England to take command of the group. However, Norway have clung on all the way and are still in with a chance of leap-frogging Pearce’s men into the top spot.
“This competition is one of the toughest competitions to qualify for, with only seven teams from ten groups going through to the Finals,” said Pearce. “Even if you win the group, you still have to face a play-off scenario, and we know just how hard they can be.
“It’s vital that we top the group. We want to finish with a victory and achieve our aim of reaching next month’s play-offs as group winners. We need to be in as strong a position as possible to try and make our job easier when the draw for the play-offs is made on Friday.
“If that’s not the case, then we’ll assess the situation again.”
He continued: “The powerhouses of Europe are looking as though they are going to finish top of their groups. So if you are going to be involved Pot B, you are going to have a tough game on your hands.
“We had a great win in Norway. We need another one now.”
Pearce also said that he has had good contact with England Manager Roy Hodgson about the development of players moving between the Seniors and Under-21s.
The young Lions have this week been without their regular goalkeeper throughout qualifying, Jack Butland, who is with the full squad for the win in Moldova on Friday and Tuesday’s game with Ukraine at Wembley.
But Pearce revealed that he was not planning on playing the Birmingham stopper in Azerbaijan last week, instead opting for Jason Steele. However, when the Middlesbrough number 1 was struck down with illness in Baku, Ben Amos was given his chance and kept a clean sheet in the 2-0 win.
“We have spoken about Butland, his future and where we see him,” said Pearce.
“The closer I can work with Roy is going to be vital. It will not only be of benefit to the team, but also to the players.
“Butland is a case in point. He has played a lot of football at international level but not much club football. I spoke to Roy about that a week ago. I told him I wanted to start Jason Steele against Azerbaijan. I had no intention of playing Jack in that game.
“Between us we decided that he stayed with the Seniors where his experience would be better suited. October might be completely different.”
The last remaining tickets for the England Under-21s fixture at Chesterfield are still available priced at just £10 Adults, £5 children (£0.50 per order for credit card payment applies).
Call 01246 488232 or email email@example.com to get your tickets now or book online at www.chesterfield-fc.co.uk
The game will be broadcast live on ESPN.