Southgate ready for first test

05 September 2013 11:16

Gareth Southgate takes charge of his first match as England Under-21s manager on Thursday, with Moldova the opponents as qualification for the 2015 European Championships get under way.

It is the first competitive match since the Young Lions' miserable summer in Israel, where they bombed out of the tournament at the first hurdle following three lacklustre defeats.

Those woeful displays brought Stuart Pearce's six-year reign to an end and has raised serious questions over the state of the English game.

After a 6-0 friendly win against Scotland, Southgate has been brought in as Pearce's successor and is now hoping to secure qualification to a fifth successive European Championships.

"It's always the case with a new qualification period that there's a new group of players coming through and one or two who have played in the side previously," the former Middlesbrough manager said.

"This time, with a different group of staff and for myself and Steve Holland, it's been a fresh challenge and we've really enjoyed it.

"The guys that are here have been very bright in training and we're actually spoilt for choice in several areas of the field."

While victory tonight against Moldova is important, Southgate is just as interested about the way in which his players perform at the Madejski Stadium and going forwards.

"We've spoken to the players this week and it's not just about winning matches, it's about the way that we want to play and we're also part of the development," he said.

"Clubs do the majority of that work with their players, but we want this experience to be one that is enjoyable and one that they feel they come away from having learnt something."

Source: PA