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England Under-21 team have quality in attack, says Alan Smith

Alan Smith - Alan Smith Posted 4th June 2013 view comments

If you compare England's Under-21 squad to the one that played in Denmark two years ago you could argue that it is not as strong.

In 2011, when Stuart Pearce's men failed to make the semi-finals, we had Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge, who are now pretty established Premier League players and in and around the senior England team.

Henderson: the England Under-21 skipper has developed, says Alan

Henderson: the England Under-21 skipper has developed, says Alan

This time around, though, the party seems a little short of experience - Pearce has even drafted in a few lads from the under-20 side - but there is certainly quality going forward.

Man United new-boy Wilfried Zaha, who is currently carrying an ankle knock, is the star name and the player everybody will be looking at, and he can be devastating whether he is deployed wide or through the middle.

Henderson had a good second half of the season at Liverpool and is now a lot more mature as footballer.

Alan Smith
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Blackpool's former Liverpool youngster, Tom Ince, meanwhile, can also provide some guile, along with Jonjo Shelvey, while I am looking forward to seeing how Henri Lansbury goes, too.

Lansbury has not really pushed on from a club point of view, though he now appears to have settled down at Nottingham Forest, but he has been around the under-21 scene for a while and impressed in patches in Denmark.

I don't think the-ex Arsenal man got enough game time then but he is a good passer of the ball and can create a chance, and he could link-up well with captain and lynchpin, Jordan Henderson, in the middle of the park.

Henderson had just moved to Liverpool two years ago and that possibly distracted him in Scandinavia, but he had a good second half to this season at Anfield and is now a lot more mature as footballer.

I just hope all our players combine, put some attractive, open football together and fulfil their potential because we haven't really done that too much recently, even though we got to the final in 2009 against Germany.

Beneficial

Under-21 teams always want to serve the seniors by developing lads, bringing them on as people and getting them used to tournament football, something we've seen previously with Theo Walcott, Joe Hart and the players I've mentioned at the top of this article.

With that in mind, you could say it would be beneficial for players in the England team who are eligible for this tournament, like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Rodwell, to travel to the competition and continue their education.

But, on the flip side, the club managers want players in their first-team squads to rest over the summer and not get overworked, while Roy Hodgson doesn't have a large pool of talent to pick from and wants to keep the young guns to bulk up his England team.

Pearce, however, will still be looking to win the tournament and keep up a pretty successful period as under-21 manager, which has included consistently qualifying for major competitions, something other countries, such as France, haven't done.

Stuart seems quite relaxed ahead of England's opening game against Italy on Wednesday evening and people around him say he is as calm as he has ever been on the eve of a tournament, so hopefully that can bear fruit.

I am really looking forward to seeing the stars of tomorrow line-up in this event - we saw Juan Mata light things up two years ago and he has gone on to great things since then - and it is a great platform for these guys to express themselves and further their careers.

Spain are probably the favourites but England seem to have the easier group - they have been drawn with Norway and Israel, in addition to Italy - and I would expect them to qualify for the semi-finals.

And if they build a bit of momentum and generate some togetherness, who knows what can happen?

Click here for details of our European Under-21 Championship coverage.

Comments (1)

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Kon Hanson (Watford fan) says...

It will be interesting to see if Chalobah gets a shot at this year's championships. He's the type of player who can run a game if the opposition aren't clued up on how he plays. Will also be interesting to see if Pearce sticks with the conventional number 9 with someone like Connor Wickham or goes for a false 9 like Shelvey or Tom Ince who has done well down the middle in the latter part of Blackpool's season. Either way, we have a talented bunch here. We might have the best defence in the tournament - Caulker and Dawson have formed a very good partnership. Good luck to the lads.

Posted 22:57 4th June 2013

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