While a point against U21 European Championship pre-tournament favourites Spain represents a solid opening game return for Stuart Pearce’s young Lions, the largely fortuitous manner in which the point arrived has led the former Manchester City manager to demand that his side quickly learn how to show the arrogance of the Spanish.
Although Pearce rightly praised the perseverance of his young stars – Danny Welbeck’s late strike was a testament to the never-say-die attitude that the passionate Pearce has instilled in his side – he was quick to point out that his team can perform much better: “There
Two players who did express their talent were Manchester United’s Chris Smalling and Tottenham’s Kyle Walker. While Fabio Capello has included both youngsters in previous senior squads, the Italian has yet to hand either of them a full England cap – something that the ambitious Walker hopes will change in the near future. “I’d love to play for my country – it’s my ambition,” said the 21-year-old in the wake of his marauding performance at full back on Sunday. The former Sheffield United man was arguably England’s best player and it was his late run and pass that allowed Danny Welbeck to beat David De Gea. With captain Michael Mancienne – Pearce’s preferred choice at right-back – deployed as a holding midfielder, Walker was given the chance to shine in an attacking full back berth – a chance he seized with both hands. “I’ve missed out in the last few games,” said Walker. “There’s a great squad there and it’s difficult to get a place, so I was happy when my name went up. I just have to show that I do deserve the shirt and I’m going to keep it.”
Assuming that Walker does keep his position at right-back for Wednesday’s clash with Ukraine, he will be lining up alongside Manchester United starlet Chris Smalling. The centre-back was quick to quash suggestions that the emergence of Phil Jones – both at domestic and national level – would hinder his own development; the former non-league player was rock at the heart of the England backline, ensuring that the Spaniards’ play lacked the incisiveness that characterises their senior XI. Indeed, Smalling declared himself “delighted” that he would be linking up at club level with Jones next season, telling reporters: “I’ve really enjoyed playing with him and it’s hard to think he’s only 19 as well… hopefully we can play together for a few years and see this championship out as well first and go further than a couple of years ago.” Pearce will now no doubt be hoping that his young side can compliment their defensive maturity with greater attacking endeavour as they take on bottom side Ukraine tomorrow.