England under-21 boss Stuart Pearce today warned their Euro 2013 rivals the Three Lions can improve after they steamrollered Sweden at Walsall.
Thomas Ince’s brace and goals from Jonjo Shelvey and Connor Wickham eased England to a 4-0 win in at the Banks’s Stadium last night in front of 9,758 fans.
It was the biggest attendance for a competitive fixture at the ground since 10,102 watched Walsall’s 1-1 draw with Leeds United in December 2007.
It began their preparations for Euro 2013 in Israel to take the spotlight off Pearce, after his contract talks with the FA were shelved talks until the summer.
And the manager insisted his team, who were runners-up in 2009, can improve despite their four-midable performance.
He said: “There’s a lot of work to do between now and the summer. I have been to three tournaments before and I know the standard you have to achieve to win. We have to go to the tournament with our best players.
“The Spanish will be strong, the Germans are looking very strong and the big powerhouses of Europe are at this tournament. There’s a long way to go and we’ll keep our fingers crossed our players stay fully fit.
“We’ll motivate them and get them ready for another tournament.”
Pearce also insisted Thomas Ince can surpass his dad’s achievements after the Blackpool star demolished the Swedes.
Blackpool’s Ince, son of ex-Wolves captain and England midfielder Paul, ran the show – scoring twice in the first-half – and Pearce reckons he can better his father.
He said: “We hope he’s going to be better. If he emulates Paul, he's certainly had some career. There’s a lot of common sense with Tom and he’s beyond his years.
"He’s got his Pop behind him, as well giving him a guiding hand in what’s best for him. There was speculation about him and maybe one or two offers.
"But he’s very level headed and playing for a club who are going to give him a chance of regular first team football. He doesn’t seem to get tired and doesn’t seem to get injured.
"He keeps playing and playing and has racked up a lot of games for Blackpool.”
The result means England have kept a record-breaking seven consecutive clean sheets and Pearce hailed it as one of his best.
He said: “It’s fantastic to kick the new year off with a good result and it’s something to build on for the summer.
“I think it’s arguably as well as we have played – certainly for 45 minutes. The way we grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck.”
West Brom’s Craig Dawson, on loan at Bolton, started for England with Liverpool quartet Jack Robinson, Andre Wisdom, Jordan Henderson and Shelvey.
England dominated and Shelvey had already ballooned over before Ince slid in Adam Smith’s low cross after seven minutes.
The Liverpool midfielder then converted Ince’s mis-hit shot to make it two. It was 3-0 just before the break.
Ince was felled by Filip Helander and the Blackpool starlet followed up after Josh McEachran’s poor penalty was saved.
England added a fourth with 14 minutes left through Wickham.
England (4-2-3-1): Steele (Rudd 46); Smith (Lees 75), Dawson, Wisdom, Robinson; Henderson (Hughes 46), McEachran (Chalobah 67); Ince, Shelvey (Lansbury 46), Afobe (Wickham 46); Zaha (Lowe, 58). Subs not used: Amos (GK).
Sweden (4-4-1-1): Linde (Stomberg 46); Johansson, Milosevic (Bergstrom 73), Helander, Malm; Hrgota (Nazari 75), Allansson (Blomqvist 62), Hiljemark, Andersson (Larsson 46); Nyman (Barkrot, 62); Ishak. Subs not used: Azulay.
Referee: Felix Zwayer (Germany)