‘Our boys can beat anyone’

Dan Micciche says he would back his Young Lions against anyone in the world – as long as they are provided with the right environment to play with freedom.

The England U16 head coach has selected a 22-man squad for Wednesday’s friendly with Belgium at St. George’s Park, and he is aiming to provide every one of them with an enjoyable and challenging learning experience against tough opposition.

England U16 v Belgium

International match
St. George’s Park
Wednesday 18 August 2014

“We aim for them to have a great England experience every time they represent their country and this is no different,” Micciche told TheFA.com.

“Every member of the squad have attended our U15 training camps already, so they know we expect them to come and express themselves on the pitch and be reflective off it. 

Micciche, who has a track record of developing talent during his time at MK Dons, took charge of the Young Lions squad that travelled to the Nordic Tournament last month in Denmark – a mix of U16 and U17 players.

The squad selected this time does not include any from that one in July, but with a host of newcomers, Micciche believes England will be in a great position for the start of the Victory Shield in October.

“We’ve already had six from this year group come to the Nordics with us a few weeks ago, and we are now, in effect, giving another 22 debuts, which puts us into a great position going into the new season,” he said.

“That’s 28 players already from this pool who will have worn an England shirt – it shows how the programme is evolving.

“One of the rationales behind this is to gradually increase our games programme but also to avoid wherever possible for players to make their England debut live on Sky in the Victory Shield. 

“Historically August has tended to be a training camp but Dan Ashworth and Gareth Southgate have been extremely proactive in giving our players an earlier introduction into our playing philosophy and international football which will stand us in good stead in the coming years”

Micciche is relishing the opportunity to work on the training pitch with some of the country’s finest young talent. And although he knows the Belgians will be a tough test, he will be encouraging his squad to play with freedom and imagination.

“I’ve had one experience against Belgium already this year in the UEFA U16 Invitational Tournament and they had some good individuals, as does every nation, like we witnessed in the Nordics recently” he said.

“We need to create the right environment for players so they feel free to be creative and showcase what they can do”

Dan Micciche 

“But I’d genuinely back our boys against anybody in the world – as long as we as national staff create the right environment for them to feel free to be creative and showcase what they can do so as much depends on us as on them.

“That’s what we’ll be looking to do in the first two days we are with them, we’ll have double sessions that are geared around playing with freedom and our playing style in and out of possession.

“We are going to play four 30-minute periods against Belgium and two separate teams so every player can get plenty of game time.  

“To help the players prepare mentally and tactically I’ll be naming the team on Monday afternoon and have then included two 11 v 11 training sessions where they can get used to playing with each other as well as the style we want them to adopt.

“We’ll also have a futsal training session and mini tournament to give them variety which helps with motivation at this age and also allows us to see them in as many different learning environments as possible.” 

England face Belgium on Wednesday – kick-off 3pm. Follow @England on Twitter for match updates.