Southgate: U21s squad spirit needs to evolve naturally

Wednesday 02 Sep 2015
Gareth Southgate and assistant Steve Holland watch on during training at St. George's Park
Gareth Southgate has called on his England Under-21s squad to find their feet quickly ahead of the new campaign.

The Three Lions squad met up at St. George’s Park on Sunday evening, with games coming up against USA U23s on Thursday and then their first Euro Qualifier in Norway next Monday.

And with nine players in the squad already familiar with the U21s after their involvement in the last campaign, Southgate and his staff are keen to foster a similarly strong team spirit as the group target qualification for the next Euro Finals in Poland.

England v USA

International Match
7.45pm, Thursday 3 September 2015
Deepdale, Preston North End FC
Live on BT Sport
Tickets £10 adults, £5 concessions
Call 0844 856 1966 or e-mail

"Training was a bit quieter [than last season’s group] yesterday," he revealed. 

"That’s because they’re not as comfortable yet in pulling each other up and challenging each other but that’s got to evolve naturally.

"And we have to try and win a game on Monday so it has to evolve fairly quickly.

"So we have to put ourselves back to where we were two years ago and think about what the dynamic was then.

"But we’re probably further ahead because eight or nine of the boys have played together and know the style of play and the method of training."

One thing which the head coach is keen to implement is an intensity of training which challenges all of the players to reach their peak level.

And with the opposition on Thursday being an American team who are two years older and focused on qualifying for next summer’s Olympics, he believes this week will be a testing start for his squad. 

"Training has to be intense and pressured on a level that challenges everybody and that level is different for everyone in the group," he continued.

"We try to think of ways of taking them out of their comfort zone so when the offer [of the USA game] came, we didn’t hesitate to take it because we know about the experience.

"The friendlies we had last year against France and Germany were the challenges we needed really.

"We’re not certain what that challenge needs to be for the new players in the group until we get to know the level they are at.

"It might be that our qualifying group might not be as challenging, so we’ve always got to challenge players and take them to the next step."

Tickets for the game at Deepdale are priced at just £10 for adults and £5 for children, with a family ticket (two adults and two children) costing £20 and group bookings of 15+ working out at £5 for adults and £1 for children.

Season ticket holders can also claim half price tickets and concessions for U18s, over 65s and students (on production of valid ID) are £5. Call 0844 856 1966 for details or e-mail:

By Nicholas Veevers at St. George's Park