Stuart Pearce admitted he could not have asked for a better start from his latest crop of England Under-21 hopefuls after watching them thrash Azerbaijan 6-0.

The biennial turnover of playing staff that goes hand in hand with under-21 football meant four of the starting XI were making their debuts, while most of the squad had changed from this summer's European Championships.

"So many players making their debuts, so many players new to the squad," said Pearce. "So the result was fantastic to kick the campaign off, and something to build on work from."

He added: "We're going to have to improve and get better. This is a really tough competiton to not just to get to the finals of but to attempt to win. I was very pleased with everyone who contributed. We had to hit the ground running, you can't afford to drop any points."

England's victory was inspired by midfielder Henri Lansbury, who scored twice and set up both of Craig Dawson's two debut goals.

Pearce said of Lansbury, who was part of the squad in Denmark: "Henri, in some ways, came of age this summer. You have to look at these young players and sometimes it takes some longer than others to come make a stamp at under-21 level. Henri's one of those. He's been patient, his training was fantastic during the summer.

"We saw a different Henri Lansbury, a more mature young man that was playing and was fantastic around the group. We were expecting a great deal of him tonight and he's delivered."

Lansbury joined West Ham from Arsenal on Wednesday on a season-long loan and Pearce added: "The more players that we've got out actually playing for clubs, the better it is for me."

West Brom defender Dawson had a dream international debut and Pearce said: "I wouldn't say he's a surprise to me because I went and watched him play for Rochdale a couple of years ago with a view to bringing him into this squad.

"He's got a non-league knack about him to want to head the ball in the opposition's box. So, we're pleased for him - he's a fantastic character."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Topics:
#Arsenal
#West Bromwich Albion
#Craig Dawson
#Stuart Pearce
#Rochdale
#Henri Lansbury
Flag article