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BANKS'S Stadium will play host to the first England Under-21s fixture of 2013 when they meet Sweden on Tuesday evening.
In an historic year for The Football Association, celebrating its 150th Anniversary, Stuart Pearce’s Young Lions will be looking to impress with Euro 2013 on the horizon this summer.
Last year couldn't have gone any better for Pearce’s side, who won all six games without conceding a goal as they secured their place in the Finals in Israel.
“2012 was a good year for us,” said Pearce. “Defensively we were very strong not conceding a goal, while we created a lot of chances.
“The squad evolved too, so we saw a lot of players during the year illustrating the depth we have.
“We hope the game in Walsall will give us the chance to start this year where we left off in November as we build towards Israel.”
The Finals in June will see an unrivalled fourth successive appearance in the eight-team tournament for the Under-21s.
Coach Pearce recalls his previous meeting with Tuesday's opponents at the 2009 Finals, hosted by the Swedes.
Having reached the last four of the competition, England lined up against Sweden in Gothenburg. And they quickly silenced the 16,000 home fans taking a 3-0 lead into the break.
But Sweden responded emphatically, levelling matters in the second half to take the game all the way to penalties. This time the Three Lions came out on top to reach the Final.
“It was a great game, an excellent advert for Under-21s football,” he said. “It had a bit of everything and went right the way to penalties. It was a really exciting night, but thankfully we went through.
“The tournament in Sweden was an fantastic experience for all involved. We have a great relationship with the Swedes and we're all really looking forward to the game as we build for the summer.
“I expect Sweden will come with a younger side, and for us we'll probably have one or two players who have done extremely well over the winter period.
“We need to start the year well and take a solid run of form forward as we build for June and beyond.”
And Pearce is also looking forward to going back to Walsall and remembers a visit there in The FA Cup 12 years ago.
“When I was at West Ham, people will probably remember the Di Canio goal at Old Trafford in The FA Cup, but in the Third Round we had to go to Walsall,” continued the former left-back. “We’d already played them home and away in the League Cup earlier that season, winning by the odd goal.
“So it was no surprise that The FA Cup tie was tight, too, with us narrowly winning 3-2.
“It’s not a ground we’ve played at with the Under-21s before, so will be a first for the club. Hopefully the Walsall fans can come along and get behind us and enjoy a good night of international football.”
There will be a wealth of talent on show here at Banks's Stadium with Stuart Pearce naming the following squad for the game:
Ben Amos (Manchester United), Declan Rudd (Norwich City), Jason Steele (Middlesbrough)
Ryan Bennett (Norwich City), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton), Craig Dawson (Bolton Wanderers - loan from West Brom), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Tom Lees (Leeds United), Jack Robinson (Liverpool), Luke Shaw (Southampton), Adam Smith (Millwall - loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool)
Nat Chalobah (Watford - loan from Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Will Hughes (Derby County), Henri Lansbury (Nottingham Forest), Jason Lowe (Blackburn Rovers), Josh McEachran (Middlesbrough - loan from Chelsea), Jonjo Shelvey (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)
Benik Afobe (Bolton Wanderers - loan from Arsenal), Tom Ince (Blackpool), Connor Wickham (Sunderland), Wilfred Zaha (Crystal Palace - loan from Manchester United)
The match will take place on Tuesday, February 5th (kick-off 7.30pm). It will also be screened live on ESPN.
Fans can get tickets to watch England’s young stars for the terrific price of just £10 for adults, £5 for children and a family ticket (two adults and two children) is only £20. Supporters will also have the opportunity to purchase equivalent tickets at the same price for The Saddlers' next home game against Notts County at the same time.
Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased by calling 01922-651 416.
The Stadium Suite, Legends Bar and Away Bar will all be open for this game... Please note that the Stadium Suite bar will remain open for around an hour after the final whistle...