Gosling and England take flight
© Foto-net

Unlike the majority of those in the British Isles, England U-20 coach Brian Eastick was fortunate enough to see Dan Gosling's goal live last Wednesday. A technical problem had meant the coverage of Everton and Liverpool's FA Cup fourth round replay was interrupted in the 118th minute with the Toffees on the attack. After an unscheduled advertisement break, the cameras clicked on again at Goodison Park with Gosling under a pile of joyous Everton players, celebrating their passage through to the next round and a victory over their old enemy.

"All week I had been saying to people that if I got on, I was going to score," said Gosling. "I always know that if I'm on the pitch, I'll get a chance. It was one of the best nights of my career. Scoring the goal was a massive moment for me and everyone connected with the club. It was a great feeling."

Two hundred and 78 miles away, Gosling's mother, Hilary, missed her son's goal while watching the match at the family home, but Eastick, who has had a hand in nurturing the midfielder's talent, was a delighted viewer. He believes that the former Plymouth Argyle star's move to the Premier League club, together with the youngster's hard work, is now paying dividends.

"Yes, I was lucky enough to watch the goal - and it was a lovely strike," said the England U-20 coach.

"Over the past 12 months I've seen him develop physically. He's stronger now and a bit quicker. Training with the first team at Everton with quality players on a daily basis has given him the opportunity to improve his understanding of the game and his range of passing has improved as a result. He's also been encouraged to get forward more and he's certainly getting into more goalscoring positions. He's got a lot more to do yet, that's for sure, but the more he plays, the better he'll become."

Gosling joined up with the England U-19 side ahead of their match with Spain at Bournemouth's Dean Court tomorrow evening and, understandably, Eastick has noticed a spring in his step following the goal and his first start at Goodison Park in the 3-0 victory against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.

"He's oozing confidence at present," continued Eastick. "He came to the European U-19 finals in the Czech Republic as an U-18 player and he struggled a little bit. Before the tournament he'd had a patchy time with injuries and consequently he hadn't had a real run of games under his belt. That showed a little bit in his performance, particularly in the opening game.

"But now he's been injury-free for three or four months and he's got a run of games. He's been knocking on the door of the Everton first team, he was given a chance and he's grasped it. When players go into a team and do well, their confidence and self-esteem really grows. Even in the light training session we had yesterday [Sunday], you can see how well he's playing and I'm sure he's got a terrific future ahead of him. David Moyes must be delighted to have him in his squad."

Training with the first team at Everton with quality players on a daily basis has given him the opportunity to improve his understanding of the game and his range of passing has improved as a result.
Brian Eastick on Dan Gosling

On current form, Eastick would be just as delighted to have Gosling in his squad for the FIFA U-20 World Cup finals in Egypt. The former youngster played in all five of England's at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Korea two years ago as John Peacock's side reached the quarter-finals, and the former Plymouth trainee is eligible for this year's U-20 equivalent.

Eastick, who has been in his position with the FA for three and a half years, insists that FIFA tournaments such as Egypt 2009 are "invaluable experiences", not only for the players themselves, but for England teams of the future.

"It's going to be a fantastic experience for the players who do go to Egypt," he said. "To go and play against some of the best teams and the best players in the world is something that they will never forget - and it's also important for their international development too.

"If you spoke to all the previous senior England head coaches in recent years including Fabio [Capello], Steve McClaren and Sven-Goran Eriksson, I think that the one think they would say that our players lacked is experience of tournament football. The more experience we can give our young players, the better it will be for our senior national team - and hopefully we'll have a greater chance of winning something."

Eastick's teams usually play in front of capacity crowds and Tuesday night's match with Spain is no exception, as they begin their preparations for Egypt in earnest. Over 9,000 tickets have been sold for the match against the Korea 2007 finalists, who include Fran Merida, Iago and Jordi in their squad for the friendly.

"There is a lot of interest in the England youth set-up, but a lot of these players are now in the first teams of their club sides - players such as Danny Welbeck at Manchester United, Jack Rodwell and Dan at Everton are all names which people recognise," he said. "There are also a few players who are out on loan at various clubs who making a name for themselves too.

"I've tried to arrange high-quality friendlies this year. We've played the Netherlands, Germany and we're hoping to play Italy and another big European team in the next few months. Spain's record is absolutely outstanding. This particular age group beat us 1-0 in the European championships two years ago and they then went on to the final in Korea. We find out more about our players when they play against the best sides in the world - and I think we'll find out a lot more on Tuesday night."