Brian Eastick was set for a busy European summer, but his reappointment as England’s U-20 coach meant that the middle part of 2011 was going to be even more hectic. Not that he’s complaining. Between 11 and 25 June, Eastick is set to be in Denmark serving as an assistant to Stuart Pearce for the UEFA U-21 European Championship, before immediately turning his attentions to his preparations for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which begins a little over a month later.
The Londoner was surprised and delighted in equal measure to be given the role, seeing as it was his colleague, Noel Blake, who led the Young Lions to qualification at the UEFA U-19 European Championship in France. A place in the semi-finals of that competition booked courtesy of Blackpool winger Matt Phillips' last-gasp equaliser against the hosts booked England’s passage to Colombia and gave Eastick a role he was more than happy to reprise.
“Egypt was a great experience for me as a coach,” he told FIFA.com. “Colombia will be another great challenge in terms of preparation because it’s going to be played at altitude, so it’s going to be tough for the European teams. Also, I'm unsure as to the make-up of my squad, as I'm unsure which players will be made available by the clubs.”
Eastick is hopeful, however, that the English clubs will recognise the importance of the tournament particularly given its role in developing some of the world’s finest players. Kaka, Lionel Messi and Xavi have all shone in previous editions and the Three Lions themselves have seen a player rise through the ranks following a series of FIFA performances in Egypt.
Martin Kelly was a Liverpool reserve before Egypt 2009, but has since made his Premier League debut, won his first England U-21 cap and, more recently, cemented a regular starting role at right-back under new Reds manager Kenny Dalglish, forcing senior international Glen Johnson to move to the other side of the defence.
“If you spoke to Martin Kelly he would say that Egypt was a fantastic experience for him and central to his development as a Premier League defender,” continued Eastick. “I have absolutely no doubt that playing against different game styles, quality players in different conditions, and the experience of being involved with an England squad has benefitted him enormously.
“Any player who comes with the England squad to Colombia will have a fantastic experience. Some of these players may never get a chance to play in a World Cup again. I imagine there will be large crowds in Colombia as well, as there was in Egypt. I’m not sure that all the time, the players and clubs realise just what a fantastic competition it is and what an honour it is to play in it. I think the message is, 'Play well for England in Colombia and see if you can establish yourself in the Premier League, like Martin.'”
England warmed up for Colombia with a 2-1 defeat by France last Wednesday, with Eastick conceding that the Young Lions lost to a very good side. A goal from Watford’s Marvin Sordell gave the hosts the lead on 11 minutesn but the visitor’s struck back on 38 minutes thanks to a fine shot from Lyon’s Clement Grenier and his club team-mate, Alexandre Lacazette, clinched the win just after the hour mark.
“I think the result was about right," admitted Eastick. "We need to put it into perspective. We had an awful lot of withdrawals, a lot more than I suspect that France had. If you consider that eight of their team who played in the European final against Spain started, I felt we acquitted ourselves well.
“The game was competitive, it wasn’t particularly one-sided. I thought technically they were a bit better than us, their rotation in midfield caused us a lot of problems, but then again they would cause any team problems."
If you spoke to Martin Kelly he would say that Egypt was a fantastic experience for him and central to his development as a Premier League defender.