England U21s jet off to face eclectic mix of opponents

Wednesday 21 May 2014
Southgate takes his squad to Toulon in France this week
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England Under-21s jet off to southern France on Tuesday afternoon to compete in this year’s Toulon Tournament.

Head Coach Gareth Southgate takes an initial squad of 19 to the annual competition, where the Young Lions will face an initial four games against Qatar, Brazil, South Korea and Colombia.

With striker Harry Kane ruled out after sustaining an ankle injury in Monday's win over Wales, coupled with a number of players unavailable due to involvement in the weekend’s Championship Play-Off final, there are ten new faces included in the group for the first time at Under-21 level.

England Under-21s boss Gareth Southgate joins in with training at St. George

Southgate has enjoyed training with his squad in the build-up to Toulon


And Southgate believes the trip is going to be a worthwhile experience on a number of fronts, for both players and staff.

He said: "The dynamic has slightly changed because we thought we’d have four or five other players that we’ve had all year who needed a different challenge in the group.

"Now we’ve got a group who are in that position and another group for who it’s a great opportunity to see if they can play at this level and also expose them to the different styles as well, so it’s almost an additional bonus to the trip really.

"Eight or nine of these players are from the 1994 year group, so they can play in the next Under-21 tournament. 

"So there’s a whole group there who could be with us for a long period of time and we can start to identify them now. 

"Even if it’s not for August and September, we will know the group better looking forward."

From the squad travelling to Toulon, only Brighton & Hove Albion forward Solly March is involved with an England squad for the first time.

Nathan Redmond celebrates scoring the first goal against Wales.

The Three Lions travel to Toulon after a 3-1 win over Wales on Monday


But with club-mate Jake Caskey-Forster also involved, it’s been a comfortable introduction to the international scene for the 19-year-old so far.

"Most of the lads have been in at a lower level and played at U17s and U19s, so it’s not a totally alien environment and they’ve played with a lot of the other lads and that helps them settle in," explained Southgate.

"We want to go and win [in Toulon], but even if we don’t win, the learning process of playing this type of opposition is invaluable really so there are many reasons for us going."

England’s first game takes place on Thursday evening when they face Qatar at the Stade Lagrange in Toulon.

After that, they face Brazil in St. Raphael on Monday 26 May before it’s South Korea in Aubagne on Wednesday 28 May.

The final group game is against Colombia on Friday 30 May, back in Toulon.

By Nicholas Veevers