Pearce delighted with impressive win
Stuart Pearce admitted his England Under-21s had exceeded his expectations as they geared up for this summer's European Championship finals with a convincing 4-0 friendly victory over Sweden.
Blackpool forward Tom Ince capped a man of the match display with a brace either side of setting up Jonjo Shelvey's tap-in as the Young Lions took complete control before half-time at a wet Banks's Stadium in Walsall.
Substitute Connor Wickham headed a fourth after the break in what was a disjointed second period following a raft of substitutions. Coach Pearce, who has seen talks over his own future put on hold until after the tournament, said: "It's arguably as well as we've played, certainly the first half when we really took the game by the scruff of the neck."
He continued: "I just wish we were meeting up again tomorrow to prepare for another game. It's a great achievement, seven clean sheets on the trot, and that's credit to the lads. It couldn't have been a better way to get our preparations underway. It was beyond my expectations how well they gelled with each other.
"They passed the ball fantastically well, they had a real enthusiasm to stop the opposition getting efforts at our goal. Winning the game 4-0 was a real bonus. I think right across the squad, the way they've come together straight away for this new calendar year has been outstanding for us. It's our first stepping stone on building for the tournament in the summer."
Pearce will guide England into his fourth Euro finals since taking charge six years ago, with the Young Lions bowing out in the group stages in 2011 following their final defeat two years previous. And despite being excited about his current crop's potential, he admits they are not the finished article just yet.
"I think there's a lot of work to do between now and the summer," Pearce said. "I've been to three tournaments before, I know the standard you have to achieve to actually win it so we'll have to go there with our best players, make no mistake about that.
"The Spanish will be strong, the Germans are looking very strong - the big powerhouses of Europe are at this tournament, so there's a long way to go."
Shelvey and captain Jordan Henderson, both replaced at half-time, as well as right-back Adam Smith all caught the eye during an impressive all-round display against an inexperienced Sweden side. Although it is Ince who will steal the headlines following his brace - his first goals at Under-21 level in what was his sixth cap.
"Tom's probably had about 12 efforts at goal over the games, real good chances in the previous matches and failed to score," Pearce added. "So we didn't want it to be a hang up for him because he's played extremely well in the other games. But we're pleased to see he's got on the scoresheet. I think his general all-round play was outstanding, along with a few others."