Football: Lampard leads line as juniors head for record

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The Independent Online
FRANK LAMPARD, the captain of the England Under-21 side, plans to lead his side into the record books against Poland today - with a warning for the rest of Europe that he and his side fear no one.

England's youngsters will become the first side to win a European Championship qualifying group with a 100 per-cent record and without conceding a goal if they win in Plock and keep a clean sheet. The last goal let in by the Under-21s in a competitive match was 16 months ago in the Toulon Tournament.

England produced what is widely regarded as their best performance of the campaign when they demolished Poland 5-0 at The Dell in March. The new coach, Howard Wilkinson, saw his charges continue in the same vain when they beat Luxembourg by the same scoreline at Reading on Friday.

Lampard, who has scored four goals already this season for West Ham, said: "I would fancy our chances against anyone. The squad has been together for a year and a half and we have had some tremendous results and showed a lot of quality. I would say that we wouldn't fear anyone."

Wilkinson will be forced to make three changes from the side which beat Luxembourg, with Emile Heskey, Lee Hendrie and Luke Chadwick all withdrawn through injury. He has called up Curtis Woodhouse (Sheffield United) James Beattie (Southampton) and Jonathan Greening (Manchester United).

Joe Cole, West Ham's teenage prodigy, and England's other contenders for future stardom in the Under-18 side play Switzerland in a friendly at Peterborough tonight. Cole is joined by the Aston Villa defender Gareth Barry - a regular in the Under-21 squad last season - and Peterborough's winger Matthew Etherington, who has been linked with Manchester United. Also included is the West Ham goalkeeper Stephen Bywater, who trained with the full England squad in the build-up to the European Championship game against Luxembourg.

Among the coaching staff is the former Sheffield United manager Nigel Spackman, who has replaced Stuart Pearce, while the head coach is Martin Hunter. The former Stoke City No 2 is using the game as part of his preparations for next month's European Championship qualifying group in which England face Spain, San Marino and Cyprus.

With an entry price of pounds 1 for children, organisers hope for a substantial crowd. Last season more than 7,000 people watched an Under-15 international against Scotland at London Road.

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