Jordan Pickford pleased with Under-21s bonding session

Saturday 10 Oct 2015
Jordan Pickford has enjoyed some non-football activities this week
Jordan Pickford and his England Under-21 team-mates have enjoyed a different start to the international week as they build up to Tuesday’s game with Kazakhstan.

With just one match to prepare for, the Three Lions met up slightly later than usual on Thursday morning and headed to a country retreat on the outskirts of Chester.

And with Gareth Southgate’s new-look squad still developing as a group together, there were no footballs to be seen until they returned to St. George’s Park on Friday afternoon after enjoying some team bonding events of a different kind.

England v Kazakhstan

UEFA European U21 Championship
Group 9 Qualifier
5.45pm, Tuesday 13 October 2015
Ricoh Arena, Coventry
Live on BT Sport
Click here for tickets

"We did ‘Go Ape’ in the forest, which was great fun," revealed goalkeeper Pickford.

"I’d done a similar thing when I was younger so I knew what to expect, but for some of the lads it was a new experience.

"And then we did some raft-building on Friday morning, which was a decent craic as well.

"It got everyone mucking in and trying to build and get their rafts to move and race on a lake. 

"I think we all ended up in there at some stage and the water was absolutely freezing, but it was good to get away from the football for a couple of days to get bonding and just enjoy ourselves.

"It means you get to know more about the other players, those who might be quiet come out of their shell a little bit and you get to know more about the lads, so we can hopefully take that onto the pitch as well."

There was an encouraging start for the U21s on their first meeting last month, with two 1-0 victories coming against USA’s U23s in the opening match and then in Norway in their first Euro Qualifier.

England Under-21s goalkeeper Jordan Pickford

Pickford made his Under-21s debut in the game with USA in September

Pickford was key to that victory in Drammen too, making a string of second-half saves to protect the lead given to England by skipper James Ward-Prowse’s penalty.

But the Sunderland keeper, currently on loan with Preston North End, was typically modest about his contribution to that result as their first home match at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena draws closer.

"It was a good game to play in, the first qualifier as a new group, so it was great to get together as a team and two wins are a great way to help us in our bonding together," he revealed.

"I thought I did alright, I made a few saves and kept a clean sheet, which is always the main aim.

"Especially away from home, you’re always going to get chances at the other end with some of the players we’ve got, so if you can keep a clean sheet, then that’s a great start.

"But as a team, we did everything we needed to do and got the three points and I was happy with the performance in what was only our second game together."

Despite their recent activities off the pitch, focus is now fully placed back on the business at hand with Kazakhstan providing the next opposition.

And Pickford was glad to be back on the training pitch by Friday evening with three more days of hard work and preparation planned.

Watch highlights of the Under-21s' victory in Norway last month

"It was good to get back into training and now we switch our focus to Tuesday, which will be another test and another qualifier," added the 21-year-old.

"We just need to work hard, put the preparation in to get the win and listen to the coaching staff to go from there.

"It’s a different pressure now, it’s a qualifier and they’ll come at us and want to do well.

"But if we stick to what we can do best, then we shouldn’t have a problem."

Tickets for the game at the Ricoh Arena on Tuesday 13 October are on sale now, priced at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions. Click here or call 024 7678 6411 to get yours.

By Nicholas Veevers