England Under-19s boss Keith Downing's tough squad choices

Monday 10 Oct 2016
Keith Downing

England Under-19s boss Keith Downing will see his side in action for the final time on Monday before their first Euro qualifiers next month.

The Young Lions will take on Bulgaria at Wycombe Wanderers’ Adams Park and arrive in Buckinghamshire on the back of an impressive 3-1 win over Croatia last week.

But Downing admits he still has to make a decision on who he will be taking across the border into Wales for the first Euro qualifying round in November, with an 18-man squad to be selected for three games with the host nation, Luxembourg and Greece.

England v Bulgaria

U19 International Match
7.45pm, Monday 10 October 2016
Adams Park, Wycombe Wanderers FC

"I can only pick an 18-man squad for the Euro games next month, so there’s still opportunity for everyone to impress," said Downing.

"That’s our first objective, and we’re still looking at one or two positions as we come into the game with Bulgaria. 

"We’re trying to get them focused for the Euro qualifiers in Wales in November, so these lead up games are to get them working together and also to plan some kind of structure for those three difficult qualifiers against Wales, Greece and Luxembourg.

"Tonight’s game will be difficult too and they’re too good preparation games to take us into the qualifiers."

Downing took charge of the U19s for the first time in September, overseeing a shoot-out victory over the Dutch in Telford before a narrow defeat against Belgium in Brussels.

But the head coach has been pleased with the attitude and performances from his players so far, as he and assistant Mark Robson look to fine tune things.

"We had two really stern tests last month against Netherlands and Belgium, who both have some very good players," he added.

"The games gave me an indication of where the players were in terms of the levels and the standards and it was a good opportunity to have a look at the squad of 22 that we used against two tough nations and we got a lot out of the week.

"I was really pleased with the players and their attitude, they made some good progress and it was good to get to know them and there were one or two new faces as well but they’ve gelled well and the team spirit is good.

"The overall goal is to try and reach the Elite Qualifying Round and the Euro Finals, but we’re prioritising the first thing in hand which is next month’s group and we envisage a really tough week.

"So we need to take things a step at a time, but the players have a long-term goal of reaching the Finals in Georgia next July."

Tickets for the game on Monday at Adams Park cost just £3 for adults and £1.50 for concessions and are available at the stadium on the night.

By Nicholas Veevers