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TOUGH TEST FOR TOM

Posted on 14 October 2005  - 12:00

Tom Huddlestone wasted no time getting the inside track on France after the draw for the European Under-21 Championship play-offs.

Tom Huddlestone wasted no time getting the inside track on France after the draw for the European Under-21 Championship play-offs.

England were paired with the French in the two-legged play-offs for a place in the finals next summer. England are at home in the first leg on November 12, the second four days later on November 16.

Stephen Kelly faced the French twice in his qualifying group with the Republic of Ireland and told midfielder Tom just what he wanted to hear.

"I spoke to Steo about them straight away and he said having watched our last two games we could beat them," reported Tom.

"We know if we play how we can with the players we have in the squad we should be able to beat anyone at that level but obviously we lost to Austria, so that shows what can happen.

"That was a real shock to the system but I thought we bounced back well against Poland. We knew the play-offs would be tough whoever we played and the French are a great footballing nation, but we'll be confident over two legs."

Tom played 90 minutes in both of the Under-21s final qualifying matches against Austria last Friday and Poland on Tuesday.

He admitted he was disappointed with his personal performance in the surprise 2-1 loss to Austria but felt much better in the 4-1 win over Poland.

On Friday I got a knock in just about the first minute and it caused me a lot of problems but I wanted to play

"I was struggling with it but I thought I came back well on Tuesday."

And he was delighted to see Aaron Lennon make such an impact - a man of the match display against Austria followed by another lively performance against Poland.

"In the first game against Austria he was exceptional," added Tom. "Every time he got the ball he lifted the crowd and we knew he was a great outlet - give him the ball and he would create something.

"It was the same against Poland but they must have watched the game on Friday and doubled up on him, but I thought he was excellent again."

Full U21s play-off draw: England v France, Serbia & Montenegro v Croatia, Ukraine v Belgium, Russia v Denmark, Czech Republic v Germany, Slovenia v Holland, Hungary v Italy, Switzerland v Portugal.