The England Under-21 manager, Stuart Pearce, will pick a team looking ahead to the next European Championship campaign for the final group match against Israel on Tuesday night, even though he cannot expect to be involved himself.
Although keen to avoid the further humiliation of finishing bottom with the worst return from his four tournaments at this level, Pearce said: “It’s important to try to go out with a victory and I certainly don’t want to finish bottom, but I will select a team with a view to the next campaign. We have 10 players here available for that and experience for those players will be vital, so we’ll probably see a few of those younger ones.”
That should mean a chance for players like Liverpool’s Andre Wisdom and Jack Robinson, plus Chelsea’s Josh McEachran and Nathaniel Chalobah. Tom Lees of Leeds United, although not eligible next time, may get a game as he is the only outfield player not to have appeared so far.
Having gone into the previous game against Norway with “tails up”, England now have tails firmly between their legs following a 3-1 defeat.
Roy Hodgson watched training on Monday and visited the team hotel, though Pearce did not reveal whether there was any further conversation about using more of the available players at Under-21 tournaments. All he would say following the Football Association chairman David Bernstein’s comments on Sunday was: “I only ever give my recommendations. If any decisions are taken above me at board level, I can’t influence those. Opinions might vary but in the end we come out and support each other.”
Meanwhile, Phil Neville, who confirmed his retirement at the weekend and is studying for his A licence coaching badge, has been installed as a 5-2 favourite to be the next manager of the Under-21s, ahead of Gareth Southgate and the Under-20 manager Peter Taylor, who made way for Pearce in 2007 when Crystal Palace declined to let him do both jobs.
England also need to end an eventful campaign without becoming dragged into any further controversy off the field. Like the final next Tuesday, this Tuesday’s game is taking place at the Teddy Stadium (named after a former Jerusalem mayor), which is shared by the notorious Beitar club, whose hardcore fans refuse to accept non-Israeli players. When two Chechen Muslims were signed by the club president Arkady Gaydamak – father of Alexandre, the equally controversial former owner of Portsmouth – the club’s office was burnt down.
The Israel Under-21 team is held up as an exemplar of integration, including as it does Israeli-Arabs, two Bedouins, Ethiopians and even a Russian goalkeeper. None of that appeals to Beitar fans and some fear they will turn up to the matcg to make their feelings known. But the coach Guy Luzon, who is leaving after the tournament to join Standard Liège, said: “We played here before against Belarus and everything was calm.”
Israel need a win, a defeat for Norway by Italy and a six-goal swing in their favour to finish in second place behind the Italians. Luzon added that he was “not surprised” England had gone out because they were “on the same level” as Italy and Norway, one of whom had to be eliminated. Sadly, England proved to be way below the other pair. Now they need to prove they are better than Israel, who Luzon describes as being “in the third level of Europe”.
Israel (4-4-2): Kleyman; Verta, Ben-Harush, Vahaba, Davidzara; Zaguri, Biton, Krieff, Sallalich; Dabbur, Turgeman
England (4-2-3-1): England (4-2-3-1): Steele (Middlesbrough); Wisdom (Liverpool), Lees (Leeds), Dawson (West Brom), Robinson (Liverpool); McEachran, Chalobah (Both Chelsea); Ince (Blackpool), Henderson (Liverpool), Redmond (Birmingham); Zaha (Man Utd).
Referee S Boiko (Ukr).
TV Sky Sports 2, 4.30-8pm.