SCOTLAND’s youngsters were given a footballing lesson by an England under-21 side packed with Barclays Premier League talent at Bramall Lane last night.
It was a disappointingly one-sided encounter which could have been worse for Billy Stark’s side – there was still half an hour remaining when England hit their sixth.
Afterwards the manager said he was shocked by the embarrassing mauling.
“I did not see that coming,” said Stark. “It was a bit rabbit in the headlights at times – a crushing disappointment. England gave us a chasing.
“I am not going to come here and make any lame excuses.
“We don’t have the strength in depth that England have, but I fully expected us to come here and compete better.
“I have to praise England,” said Stark of a side who had been determined to bounce back from a disappointing campaign in the summer’s European Championship finals.
“They got encouragement from the early goal, they had pace and power and the most disappointing thing is that we were second to everything.
“When you play against a side of this quality, you can’t give away cheap goals in the manner we did. These players have not let us down in the pas.
“But the players and coaches can’t get away from a result like this.
“We have to take this on the chin, take it like men and move on”
Playing for the first time since that hugely disappointing
European campaign in June that cost manager Stuart Pearce
his job, the Young Lions – overseen by seniors boss Roy Hodgson – went at their opponents from the off tonight and were ahead within three minutes. Midfielder Jonjo Shelvey sent a ball over the top and winger Nathan Redmond slotted past Scotland goalkeeper Jordan Archer.
England continued to control proceedings, with Shelvey influential from the middle, Connor Wickham making a nuisance of himself up front and Raheem Sterling looking lively on the left. And the latter added the second goal in the 38th minute, collecting the ball from Shelvey via a Redmond flick, steadying himself and then rifling it
Wickham made it 3-0 five minutes after the restart, hooking the ball in nicely when a botched attempted clearance by Archer came his way.
And England then put themselves well and truly out of sight with two goals in two minutes, substitute Ross Barkley finishing after combining with Wickham in the 55th and Shelvey looping a delightful long-distance effort over the goalkeeper in the 56th.
A rising shot from another substitute, Tom Carroll, took England to six in the 61st minute, reflecting an utterly dominant performance against a Scotland side who appeared capable of putting up little resistance.
Shortly before the interval home midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah sustained an injury from a Tony Watt tackle and had to depart the field on a stretcher.
John Stones was the only new under-21 cap included in the first XI named by Hodgson, who was taking charge on a one-off basis while the search for Pearce’s successor continued.
Fellow defender Andre Wisdom skippered the side, as he had done in the final match of the Euros, while the other
survivors from the starting
line-up from that last outing were Chalobah, Shelvey and Wickham.
In front of a healthy Sheffield crowd of 26,942, Wickham fired an early warning with a shot on the turn into Archer’s arms in the second minute, and England’s pressure swiftly yielded an opener as Redmond fired in having latched onto Shelvey’s smart delivery.
England continued to turn the screw from there, with Sterling to the fore and Shelvey trying his luck to no avail. Will Hughes also got in on the action, but was unable to make the most of another delightful Shelvey tee-up.
There was a brief moment of concern for England just after the half-hour mark when their goalkeeper Jack Butland failed to claim a corner, but when the ball came to Clark Robertson, the Scotland defender headed wide.
The momentum was soon back with the hosts, though, with Wickham shooting off target, and England then doubled their lead when Shelvey played the ball forward and Redmond sent it to Sterling, who steadied himself before burying the ball. Things did not let up for Scotland after the break, and they only had themselves to blame for the next goal as Archer sliced ball while trying to kick it out of his hands, spinning it straight up in the air for Wickham to hook straight into the net.
Shelvey almost added another within moments, sending a free-kick narrowly wide.
But further goals were not far away, thanks to the quickfire efforts by Barkley and Shelvey, the second earning a particularly rapturous reception. Carroll then converted Redmond’s pass to complete the scoring, although there were plenty of other attempts to boost the scoreline, with Sterling and substitutes Harry Kane and Sammy Ameobi unsuccessful.
“I’m delighted for them. They’ve taken a lot of criticism and some of that criticism has been very harsh,” said Hodgson. “It’s a very nice victory and it’s a very nice start to this new under-21 season for these players
“I must say, it would be very surprising if people can watch that performance, see how many talented players we have, and moan about the dearth of quality players in this country.
“It’s great to see so many quality players producing skills at the highest level.
“There were no poor performances. They did themselves proud.”
England U21: Butland, Stones, Wisdom (Thorpe 72), Keane, Robinson, Shelvey (Carroll 58), Chalobah (Barkley 44), Hughes (Dier 72), Redmond (Lingard 65), Wickham (H Kane 57), Sterling (Ameobi 65). Subs not used: Johnstone, T Kane, Garbutt, Berahino, Long, Bond
Scotland U21: Archer,Jack (Duffie 46),McHattie,Robertson,McKay,
Fyvie,McGeouch,Bannigan (Macleod 78),Armstrong (Smith 62), Feruz (May 62), Watt (Holt 72). Subs Not Used: Kettings, Findlay, Walker, Hamilton.