"We'll be coming to win it," warns England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce ahead of this summer's UEFA European U21 Championship finals in Israel as he attempts to end his country's 29-year wait to lift the title.
There have been a number of close calls during that period, none more so than in 2009 when England, under Pearce's tutelage, lost the final to Germany. Just two years earlier, during the former Nottingham Forest FC defender's first tournament in charge, the Three Lions were ousted in an epic semi-final penalty shoot-out – which ended 13-12 – by eventual champions the Netherlands. This time Pearce wants to go all the way: "It's a good line to say, 'we're turning up to give the players a good experience', but our message, from two years ago when we started this campaign, is to win the tournament."
Though he has the title in his sights, the ex-England left-back, who won 78 caps for the senior side, recognises the benefits and development opportunities offered by the tournament. "It mimics everything you are ever going to find at senior level," said the 50-year-old, whose nation beat Spain over two legs in the 1984 final. "There are very few differences. Everything you'll have to possibly go through – penalty shoot-outs, extra time, playing when you are fatigued, a lot of games in a short space of time; everything is a great process for the young players to know what it's like to step onto that senior stage."
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