Sky Blues upbeat ahead of date

Wilfried Zaha scored his first England Under-21s goal as Stuart

Pearce’s side recorded an eighth successive victory against Romania

on Thursday night, claiming a 3-0 success.

Playing as lone frontman, the Crystal Palace academy graduate,

who is on loan at Selhurst Park after joining Manchester United in

January, marked his seventh England U21s appearance with a superb

first-half strike, jinking past a number of defenders before

curling home.

Substitutes Jack Robinson and Nathan Delfouneso added extra

gloss to what was an easy victory for England, who have now not

tasted defeat since November 2011 and won eight on the trot without

conceding a goal.

While the match may have ended comfortably, the start was a lot

less straightforward. Henri Lansbury, making his first start for

Pearce’s side in more than a year, saw his night ended after just

two minutes. The Nottingham Forest midfielder had burst down the

right but came off worse in a challenge with goalkeeper Laurentiu

Branescu, meaning Delfouneso was given an early introduction.

That bad start almost worsened soon after when Romania saw

strong penalty appeals waved away after Craig Dawson and Andre

Wisdom both handled in the box. It was a warning shot across the

bows that England heeded as they took control of the game.

Raheem Sterling stung the palms of Branescu after fine work on

the right by Zaha, before the Liverpool winger then forced the

Romanian goalkeeper into action at his near post with a cross-shot.

Zaha was the next to threaten the visitors’ goal, only for

Alexandru Cretu’s head to block the striker’s goalbound effort.

Romania were struggling to deal with England’s attacking intent

and, after Jonjo Shelvey saw 20-yard free-kick tipped behind,

Sterling cut inside from the left before flashing a shot just over.

The Young Lions’ barrage continued as Delfouneso and Danny Rose had

shots, before the opener came in the 34th minute.

Zaha collected a pass from Sterling and continued to skip past

the Romanian defence, before curling a sumptuous strike into the

top right-hand corner. It was no less than England deserved after

an impressive first-half performance – one which the home side

failed to continue into the second period.

The Young Lions were comfortable in possession but lacking a

cutting edge, although Sterling came close after collecting a fine

Jordan Henderson pass and cutting inside.

It was two other Liverpool players that combined to score

England Under-21s’ second of the night in the 61st minute. Shelvey

sent a fine right-wing cross to the back post, where half-time

substitute Robinson ghosted in to volley home.

A flurry of Romanian changes could not stem the tide as England

came close to a third, with Zaha turning sublimely only to be

denied by Branescu. Pearce made three changes for the final 16

minutes, with Tottenham’s Tom Carroll coming on for his England

Under-21 debut.

Marvin Sordell saw a shot deflect behind as England continued to

press, before Delfouneso wrapped up a comfortable win with the

hosts’ third two minutes from time. He could have doubled his tally

for the night in second-half stoppage time, but Branescu easily

dealt with his late header.

Trapattoni has preferred Green, not universally popular among

fans and pundits, to Wigan’s James McCarthy for his side’s vital

World Cup qualifier in Sweden.

Trapattoni reasons that he wants the extra combative qualities

of Green to provide balance as he encourages the likes of Seamus

Coleman and Marc Wilson to attack on the flanks.

Green’s presence in squads has often divided opinion with many

doubting his ability to perform at international level.

But the 29-year-old has been a favourite of the Italian boss,

who has compared him to Italian hardman Gennaro Gattuso in the past

and has now added England World Cup winner Stiles to that list.

Trapattoni, who named his line-up at a press conference at the

Friends Arena, said: “International games are a little bit

different physically, in attitude, mentality, personality.

“If we are to have this balance, if Coleman goes (forward), I

said we must also push the defensive line. We have to stay in this


“Paul Green has the attitude. There are famous names –


“He was the player with character and attitude. He won the

league and Champions League.

“There have been players in England. Remember Nobby Stiles?

“They are players who were not full of class like (Lionel)

Messi, but football is not only this.

“We have to think about the balance. I can also change after I

see how the game develops. We can also change.”

Trapattoni had hinted at Green’s selection alongside Glenn

Whelan in midfield in training sessions throughout the week but he

insists 22-year-old McCarthy remains in his thoughts for the


He said: “McCarthy is in the squad. He plays well, but we are

playing away and I have seen so many games of Sweden.

“There are players who give time to other players. James is not

this typical player.

“He is young enough and maybe in one year or two years he will

be better than Whelan.”

Ireland go into the game a point behind second-placed Sweden in

Group C.

Sweden in turn trail leaders Germany by three points but both

they and Ireland have a game in hand.

Other notable decisions by Trapattoni will see Aston Villa’s

Ciaran Clark partner John O’Shea in central defence and Millwall

goalkeeper David Forde make his first competitive start.

West Brom striker Shane Long will partner captain and record

goalscorer Robbie Keane in attack following the decision to leave

out Wolves’ Kevin Doyle.

Hull’s Robbie Brady was named on the wing but Trapattoni

revealed he had a slight doubt over him in a psychological sense

and challenged the 21-year-old to prove he was ready.

Trapattoni said: “There is no injury but I want to be sure.

“I spoke with him. I said, ‘Are you sure, are you okay?’ He

said, ‘Yes’.

“I wish to push him. Brady is creative. He can put the opponents

in difficulty.

“He showed (this) against Poland, going inside. He is clever and

I told him, ‘You must repeat this game’.

“It is my provocation. He will now see in the newspaper tomorrow

he is a doubt. It is only psychological.”

The presence of Brady, Coleman, Wilson and Green gives the Irish

side a different look but Trapattoni is keen to evolve team

following last summer’s Euro 2012 failure.

He said: “In the last friendly game against Poland we (showed

we) are changing slowly.

“These young players give me confidence, give me trust about

what they can do.

“It is important they play how I know they can. I see them not

only training but with their clubs.

“We are not great individual players like Messi, or with Sweden

(Zlatan) Ibrahimovic.

“But we are a good team with good balance, good attitude. We are

very practical and technical.

“I am confident for this. Every day when I see the team in

training I am happy for my side. We must play our game.”

Ireland were thrashed 6-1 by Germany earlier in the campaign and

are now, most realistically, in a battle for second place with

Sweden and their opponents next Tuesday, Austria.

Trapattoni said: “The next match will obviously be very

important for our qualification.

“It will be important to keep in mind there is only one point

between us and Sweden in our pool.

“As always every little detail is important to achieve the


The match in the Swedish capital is set to be played under the

retractable roof at the Friends Arena with temperatures as low as

minus nine degrees forecast during the game.

Trapattoni said: It is cold but for me it would be better


“But there are spectators and FIFA can decide.

“We have to play 90 minutes with it closed or open.”

The England skipper endured a frustrating period when he was

sidelined with niggling groin problems.

But he has been a virtual ever present for Liverpool this season

in addition to spearheading his country’s hopes of reaching the

2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

Gerrard said: “I’m benefiting from my own training schedule, I’m

playing games and feeling really good.

“Ninety per cent of the players I play with at Liverpool and

England have a very similar programme to myself.

“Mine is certainly working at the moment and I’m feeling really


“Every player wants to play without niggles. That is how you can

perform as high as you can.

“That’s where I feel I am at the moment and I’m really pleased

with my body.

“I had a frustrating period with my groins at one stage in which

I missed a year’s football – but I’m certainly making up for that


England are currently two points adrift of group leaders

Montenegro, whom they visit on Tuesday after Friday evening’s clash

away to minnows San Marino.

Gerrard insists both games are of equal importance in ensuring

Roy Hodgson’s side secure pole position in the group.

He said: “We understand the game on Tuesday will be a lot more

difficult and people are going to focus more on that game.

“But this game in San Marino is no more less important than

Tuesday because at the end of the day we get the same out of it if

we win, three points.

“We want to take control of the group and want to wake up on

Wednesday in control of this group because we don’t play another

qualifier until next season.

“It is very important we take a foothold now and are in the

driving seat.” Gerrard is adamant England will pay the utmost

respect to San Marino who were beaten 5-0 at Wembley after adopting

a defence-minded approach.

He said: “We do understand who we are up against. On paper we

are stronger than the opposition. But sometimes when you play these

teams, they cause different problems.

“It becomes an attack versus defence game, they try and slow the

game down, commit fouls, will try and slow us down because we like

to play at a fast tempo.

“I’m sure their plan will stay the same for 90 minutes. It

certainly did at Wembley, to try to keep the score down, and we are

expecting the same again.

“We need to show the same levels of professionalism and same

intensity to get that breakthrough as soon as possible.

“The longer the game goes on at nil-nil, it gets a bit edgy.

“I’m sure the pitch will have a few issues as well but, if we

approach it professionally and near the level we can play, it

should be enough to get the three points.”

The Sky Blues and owners SISU are due in the High Court in

London tomorrow morning battling against the threat of an

administration order.

The application has come from Arena Coventry Limited (ACL), who

manage the Ricoh Arena on behalf of joint owners the Alan Edward

Higgs Charity and Coventry City Council.

A spokesman for the club tonight said the decision to place the

non-operating subsidiary into administration will not impact the

running of the npower League One outfit.

The statement on the club’s official website read: “It is

important to stress that the football club itself is not under


“This is merely a property subsidiary which owns no material

assets and has no employees, on or off the pitch.

“The club can confirm that all staff wages, PAYE and all other

creditor commitments will continue to be met as before by Coventry

City Football Club Holdings.

“Unlike other instances of clubs being taken either wholly or

partially into administration, there are no HMRC or VAT

implications and the football club will continue to trade as normal

without interruption.

“Our main objective now is to remain competitive on the pitch

and give Steven Pressley and the playing staff our full backing and


Coventry currently sit eighth in npower League One, three points

off a play-off place.

Pressley is desperate to see Coventry avoid administration in

the High Court tomorrow and the subsequent 10-point deduction that

goes with it.

The Scot, who only made the switch from Falkirk two weeks ago,

admits it would be “mission impossible” regarding City’s promotion

hopes were they to suffer the penalty, with the club currently in

eighth place in npower League One and just three points off the


He said: “It’s a concern, there’s no doubt about it. My biggest

concern is for the players and supporters because it’s been 39

games of hard work and following the team. It’s them who suffer the

most. That’s my biggest concern.

“I desperately hope that we find a solution and we can continue

challenging for those potential play-off places.

“We can only wait until we hear the verdict and continue to

prepare for Saturday’s game in the hope we can still go on and gain

promotion this year.

“The players and the supporters are the ones who really suffer

out of this, that’s why I’m desperate for some form of


Coventry travel to Fratton Park on Saturday to tackle

Portsmouth, a club who have twice suffered administration in as

many years of late.

Fans from City’s supporters’ group, the Sky Blue Trust, will

meet pre-match with their counterparts from the Pompey Supporters’

Trust, who aim to complete their takeover of the south coast club


The Sky Blue Trust hope tomorrow’s court verdict does not bring

administration but are desperately hoping for an end to the matter

for the sake of the midlands club.

Jan Mokrzycki, media officer for the Trust, told Press

Association Sport: “We just want to see a resolution, we just don’t

want the matter dragging on and on. We want it to come to a head

and be sorted out so we can get back to football.

“Whatever the outcome is, we want the supporters in general to

be taken more seriously by whoever the owners are of the club and

the one thing the Trust is pushing for is more fan involvement and

more fan involvement from an ownership point of view as well.”

He added: “I think it’s holding the whole club back, at the

moment we’re very close to the play-offs yet all we can talk about

is when would be the best time to take a points deduction should it

come. That’s not what it should be about.

“We should be getting excited not worrying about points

deductions, people coming in, people going etc. With all the

off-field activity it’s diluting that excitement.

“Hopefully, whatever happens tomorrow it will be a new start for

the club, either with Sisu or new owners. Hopefully it will draw a

line under the whole sorry business and we can move on.”