Pearce happy with England Under 21s but says side must improve to seal place at Euros

By Sportsmail Reporter

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Stuart Pearce was satisfied with a job well done after England topped qualifying group eight, but the Under 21 manager claimed his side will need to improve if they are to seal their place at the European Championship finals in Israel next summer.

England ensured their place in the playoffs with Thursday's 2-0 victory in Azerbaijan but the group - and in theory a more favourable draw in next month's knock-out double-headers as one of the seeded teams - was up for grabs against Norway at Chesterfield's Proact Stadium on Monday.

And Pearce's side won it courtesy of Connor Wickham's first goal for the Under 21s two minutes before half-time.

More to come: Stuart Pearce wants to see more from the likes of Connor Wickham in his Under 21 side

More to come: Stuart Pearce wants to see more from the likes of Connor Wickham in his Under 21 side

However, the Young Lions made hard work of the victory, with Norway having the better of the second half and counting themselves unlucky not to equalise when Havard Nielsen's effort struck the underside of the crossbar and rebounded to safety.

Following the 1-0 win Pearce said: 'If you look at the eight days we've been together as a group, overall it's very pleasing.

'We've had a lot of travelling commitments and managed to pick up a good victory that set us up for this game.

Vying: England Under 21s topped their group with a win over Norway on Monday

Vying: England Under 21s topped their group with a win over Norway on Monday

Pearce was happy with his side's showing on Monday

Pearce was happy with his side's showing on Monday

'The performances over two games of Danny Rose, Martin Kelly, both the goalkeepers and Steven Caulker has been pleasing, while Tom Ince has come in and it's his first taste of Under-21 football and we've had four new faces come into the group as well.

'To win seven out of eight games in this group at international football isn't easy.

'We're pleased with that and pleased to have topped the group but we know full well that we're going to have to play better next month if we are going to be successful and get to the finals.'

Pearce added: 'I think Norway came out of the traps fantastically well, they're a tough side and I think they'll cause anyone a problem in the play-offs.

'It wasn't a convincing performance by us but I felt we improved a bit at the start of the second half.'

Wickham took his goal well. The Sunderland striker latched onto a defensive mistake and, bearing down on goal, confidently tucked away his chance from close-range.

It was the 19-year-old's first goal since October last year.

'I'm pleased for Connor, he has worked very hard this week and been patient for his chance,' said Pearce.

'He hasn't played a great deal of football, and it's the same with Martyn Waghorn at this stage if the season and certainly one or two others are in the same boat as well so they will find this quite demanding.

'But it is football at a high standard so it will help them and help their clubs as well.'

 
 

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

Not sure what it is all about with Stuart Pearce but always get the impression that it is about his self.

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You make a good point Luke, regarding the U/21s being a developing squad, but I do think that Stuart Pearce is way out of his depth. Felt for players like Tom Ince who is clearly a promising, talent, yet he got nothing in the way of service. We can only hope mate.

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I fully agree with Stevo, at the end of the day the u21s is still a developmental squad. Yes it would be nice to win the odd tournament but we need to remember its all about developing. however on last nights performance it's hard to tell wether Pearce's tactics are dreadful or we just have dreadful players. I hope the first but honestly, who knows??

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Don't get me wrong, they have done well, but the actual quality of football is so poor and predictable. Just pass it around at the back, across the line , then 'wallop up to the front! The players are frightened to try something with the ball We have learnt nothing from watching the likes of Barcelona, pass and move method. If Stuart Pearce is happy with that, we are in trouble for years to come.

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