Gareth Southgate reflected on his week back with the England Under-21s squad with much satisfaction.
The Three Lions met up at St. George’s Park on Tuesday to begin putting the finishing touches on preparations for the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Czech Republic.
And after three days on the training pitch they picked up a 3-1 win over Republic of Ireland in a practice match on Friday.
“I’m really pleased with the week, as it’s been a foundation phase for the tournament and good re-integration for the group,” explained Southgate.
“It’s been good to reflect on our principles of play, get the players back into the England mindset, back together as a group and the way they interact.”
First-half goals from Tom Carroll, Saido Berahino and Nat Chalobah put England in control, with the Irish pulling one back after the break.
There was also the bonus of some penalty shootout practice for the players at full-time, which they also won 5-4.
And after a long break for many of his squad following the end of the domestic season, Southgate said it was a useful exercise to take on the Irish.
“The game was really valuable for us,” added the head coach.
“Everybody needed the game time, as we have boys who haven’t played a match for three or four weeks.
“There are some, like Tom Carroll, who are still coming back from injury and it was a good test for us.
“Ireland played a compact, low defensive block so it was tough to break down and they moved the ball well themselves.
“So we had some defending to do and we had a lot of possession and we scored some really good goals. We’ve gone through a penalty shootout scenario, too, which was another important step.”
After the game and a recovery session, the players were able to head home for the weekend, before their return to St. George’s Park to recommence their preparations on Monday.
And England will play their final game ahead of the Euros next Thursday when Belarus are the opposition at Barnsley’s Oakwell home.
“During this period, it’s important to keep up everybody’s energy and enthusiasm so it will be good for everybody to get the weekend to rest,” said the former Middlesbrough boss.
“Next week we start the next phase of preparation, which will be looking towards how we will handle a tournament and some of the problems that the teams in the tournament are going to pose us.
“There will be a little bit more detail and of course we will get Ruben [Loftus-Cheek], Calum [Chambers] and Harry [Kane] back in with the group so we’ll be up to full numbers.”
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