England Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce is confident that the Norfolk public can roar his young Three Lions on to victory in their crucial European Under-21 Championship play-off against Romania this Friday.
Round one of the two-legged affair is a 7:30 Friday kick-off at Carrow Road, and with the Canaries on a two-week break, a decent crowd is expected as England’s stars of tomorrow aim to reach the finals in Denmark next summer.
Former Norwich loan star Ryan Bertrand is in the squad and City fans will be interested to see how his game has developed since returning to Chelsea in May 2009.
The talented left-back spent last year on loan at Reading and he is now in the middle of a similar spell at Nottingham Forest, but he excelled during his time in Norfolk and is sure to get a positive reception.
And Pearce is sure that Friday’s crowd will back all of his team, as England look to take one huge step towards the tournament proper in 2011.
“I’m sure there’ll be a good crowd at Norwich to support us, as they have done in the past, and it’s a lovely part of the world to be in. They are a passionate crowd and the club is on the up again,” he told TheFA.com
“I remember the times when they were in Europe and playing against the likes of Bayern Munich, but they have always had that pedigree and the fans have remained loyal even in the bad times.
“My mum and dad used to live near Norwich, so it was their local club and I know the area very well. It’s always good to come here.”
Former Manchester City chief Pearce is aiming to guide his boys to a third successive European Under-21 championship and he’ll be hoping that the spirit on show during recent wins over Portugal and Lithuania will be enough to see them through the two legs.
“There’s been a great team spirit within the squad this season and the results have been pleasing as well,” added the former England left-back, famous for his emotional reaction to that penalty against Spain in Euro ’96.
“Now we’re in the situation of a play-off after the pressure of last month’s games, but I think that will stand them in good stead for these games against Romania.
“It’s a level playing field now. Romania will be just like us and desperate to get to the finals. It will be an interesting game.
“Romania will be a very direct counter-attacking team, very incisive and very quick. They try to get balls in behind very early when they turn over possession and technically they are a good side.
“They’ve proved how good they are by making fairly light work of their group, so credit to them for that. Defensively they had one blip when they lost to Latvia 5-1 but they won eight out of the other nine games so that says something about them.”
Tickets are still available for this Friday’s Carrow Road clash at £10 for adults and £5 for children and over 60s. For more information visit www.canarystore.co.uk or call 0844 826 1902.
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