A superb run of results, good team spirit and the chance to impress senior management are all reasons Jack Butland thinks England are well placed to have a good crack at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship title this month in Israel.
England come into the tournament on the back of a nine-game winning run in which they have not conceded. Last week they enjoyed a pre-finals camp in Turkey, acclimatising to the eastern Mediterranean weather and reinforcing an already strong sense of camaraderie, according to Butland. "We've been very relaxed and settled in and bonded as players and friends again," said the goalkeeper, who played in eight out of England's ten qualifying games.
It is no surprise, with the team having constructed such a splendid streak, that Butland says England will be looking to maintain their current approach. "We're going to carry everything from the last two years into this tournament," added the 20-year-old, who was in the senior squad at UEFA EURO 2012 and was in goal when England won the 2010 UEFA European U17 Championship. "It's going to be very tough for anyone to beat us, but we won't take anyone for granted too."
An inclusive atmosphere has also helped England's cause. "I think throughout the whole two years, no matter who's come into the squad, everyone has fit in – we've got an extremely good bunch of lads. There are lads who have been to previous tournaments who are helping the younger ones. Everyone gets on well which is all part of a winning team."
The players have responded well to the plans put in place by the coaching team, with Butland saying the good form "shows a lot about the messages of the management staff". "The lads have taken it on board. We've stopped teams playing.
No matter if it's home or away, we've got an incredible record. We're not a defensive side, we've got incredible attacking players but they know how to defend."
The team arrived in Israel on Sunday and had the chance to watch the England senior side play Brazil in a friendly at the Maracanã on TV. The performances of the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Rodwell shows Butland just how quickly players can progress from this stage. "We're all very proud to play for England," said the Stoke City FC keeper, who was on loan at Birmingham City FC this season. "Everyone knows this is a great platform to perform on and move up to the seniors. If we perform well and win this tournament, that can only stand you in good stead."
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