Thomas Rooney takes a look at England’sÂ prospects in the UEFA U21 tournament, which started yesterday.
The domestic football season may well be over, but the serious stuff for England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce is just getting underway.
The former Manchester City boss leads Englandâ€™s young guns in the European Under-21 Championships this month, starting with a game against tournament favourites Spain today.
Looking ahead positively to what the tournament can achieve for his players, Pearce has been discussing how his entire squad can get â€˜better and betterâ€™ as the two weeks progress.
The former England international said: â€œThe team that starts the tournament might not be as good as the team that finishes the tournament for us. I think they can get better and better as a group.â€
This is of course the main objective of the Under-21 side â€“ to prepare players for senior international football and major tournaments.
Two years ago for example, football betting pundits note how Joe Hart, James Milner, Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott were all involved in this Under-21 tournament and are not all set to be heavily involved in Fabio Capelloâ€™s plans for Euro 2012 next year.
Of the current squad, there are players with Premier League experience too and in comparing the two teams (2009 and 2011) Pearce can see the similarities when it comes to positive attributes.
He said: â€œThe preparation’s probably been nigh on identical (to 2009), to be honest with you. The camaraderie with this group’s been fantastic. there have been a lot of players come to the party. I’m very buoyed up by it.â€
Pearce is clearly enjoying his role within the England set-up right now and so he should. He gets the chance to help the most talented young footballers in the country progress their game. He is also involved in a position where results probably come second to progression of players.
This doesnâ€™t mean England wonâ€™t want to win the tournament though. They lost in the final two years ago and Pearce in particular will want to put this right.
The winning mentality is a key factor to succeeding at international level and it would be beneficial if a group of young England players have a tournament victory under their belts.
In terms of Englandâ€™s chances, they do go into the tournament as the No.1 ranked team in Europe and many people will place football bets on them being the team to beat. However, with Spain, Czech Republic and Ukraine to face in the group stages, they have a difficult path to the semi-finals.
However, if Pearceâ€™s confidence in this team proves true, they have a very good chance of lifting a European trophy for England. Something the senior team will be aiming to do next summer.