Date: 15th June 2009 at 9:24am
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People may, or may not, be aware that the European U21 Championships kick-off tonight, and of course England will be there in search of glory, before almost inevitably losing out in heartbreaking circumstances – probably in a penalty shootout!

Whilst I know that not all of the Vital Pompey readership are of course English, or indeed even follow the national side if they are – in all honesty I must confess that my interest in the national side had waivered over the years, but this was never due to lack of pride, passion or care, more due to the men in charge and the ‘policies’ they worked to when ‘selecting’ squads…

Anyway, despite that fact – the potential non-following of it fact from some – I will be following this tournament, afterall we do have some Pompey involvement with Martin Cranie named in the squad, which is as follows:

Keepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Joe Lewis (Peterborough), Scott Loach (Watford)
Defenders: Martin Cranie (Portsmouth), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Michael Mancienne (Chelsea), Nedum Onuoha (Manchester City), Micah Richards (Manchester City), Andrew Taylor (Middlesbrough), Steven Taylor (Newcastle), James Tomkins (West Ham);
Midfielders: Lee Cattermole (Wigan), Andrew Driver (Hearts) Craig Gardner (Aston Villa), Adam Johnson (Middlesbrough), James Milner (Aston Villa), Fabrice Muamba (Bolton), Mark Noble (West Ham), Jack Rodwell (Everton);
Forwards: Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa), Frazier Campbell (Manchester United), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United).

Plenty of names will be well known to all of us, with several players either capped or involved with England at full level.

There are also names that have been ‘linked’ with Pompey, including keeper Joe Lewis, most recently, and a name ‘linked’ constantly in the past Andrew Driver – with the 19-year-old the only one in the squad to play outside of England, he does play in the premier league but it is the Scottish one with Hearts…

In 2007, again some may or may not know or even remember, England lost in the semi finals – yep you guessed it on penalties after a dramatic 13-12 defeat against the eventual winners Holland, who had equalised in the last minute to force extra-time and a 1-1 draw.

It was after those Championships that Dave Nugent made his switch to Pompey from Preston, to be honest he did not show his best form in that and for me was outshone by Leroy Lita, which made me and many others believe he would have been the better option, maybe he would have been, who knows? Although as a pairing they were good, as they had been for the U21 side for a while.

England have won this twice, back in 1982 and then again in 1984, semi finals followed in 86 and 88 but we would then fail to qualify again until 2000 and then between then and 2007 either failed to make it or failed to get out of the group stages, until the semi last time round of course.

Can Stuart Pearce’s young lions go one better this time round though? The last time that he was in Sweden, which is where it is being held, the senior England side crashed out early in Euro 92, so he will be wanting more – the next couple of weeks will tell if we will get that…

With Spain and Germany in our Group, Group B, as well as Finland it is essential that we get off to a good start tonight when we face the Finns, who incidentally are the side that we secured our biggest ever win against, an 8-1 win way back in the same year as the original Star Wars was first released, 1977.

PLAY UP POMPEY & THE YOUNG LIONS!

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