David Platt's England Under-21 side go into tonight's friendly with Serbia and Montenegro knowing that a good performance is essential prior to their crucial qualifier for the European Championships with Slovakia next week.
The England youngsters have been preparing in Sardinia over the past week and Platt has been pleased with their efforts. Now he wants them to carry that into the game against the Serbs at Hull City's new Kingston Communications stadium.
Platt said: "It might be the end of the season and our focus might be on the Slovakia game which is of paramount importance. But the players have to be out to show that they deserve to get into the team plus it is a stepping-stone to full level so really there is no such thing as friendlies."
Platt admitted the Sardinia exercise was an effort to keep players fresh after their long season. But he also said he had no doubts about calling up the Sheffield United pair Phil Jagielka and Michael Tonge, neither of whom have benefited from a rest after the Blades' exertions in the First Division play-offs. "I spoke to Neil Warnock and if Neil had said the players were absolutely dead on their feet I would have had to have listened to that," Platt added. "But Neil was happy for them to come. They're still right up there in terms of adrenaline and they wanted to get back out there on the training pitch."
Platt said he had not given the captaincy much thought but there is a chance that the Southampton midfielder David Prutton may lead the team out in his home city. Prutton accepts a victory is vital following two winless matches against Portugal and Turkey, and with a trip to the latter still to come.
Prutton said: "The European Championships is a great tournament and we went there last time and didn't do as well as we would have liked. But it is a great stage and we want to be back there for sure."
The 21-year-old is likely to earn his 21st Under-21 cap, eight days before the resumption of the real business of qualifying for the European Championships against Slovakia. Prutton has settled in quickly since his £2.5m move from Nottingham Forest to the south coast in January but geographical distance have kept his family's recent glimpses of his Premiership displays to a minimum.
"My dad used to come and watch me every week in Nottingham but since I moved to Southampton it's been a bit more difficult," he said. "Dad's still got his trusty old Volvo which must have done a million miles by now!
"There will be plenty of other people I know there including my old Sunday League manager who works somewhere in the stadium now.
"I followed Hull whenever I was suspended from my Saturday team," Prutton added. "So it's fantastic to be back, playing in Hull for my country."Reuse content