England fans might want to put their shirt on at least one of Stuart Pearce’s young charges scoring as England prepare to face Wales tomorrow in the first leg of the play-offs for the European Under 21 Championship Finals in Sweden next summer.
With Wolverhampton Wanderers’ star striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake being named after a prize-winning racehorse, those who have seen the 22-year-old’s skills in front of goal might feel he is a pretty safe bet to find the back of the net in the first leg for the Three Lions at Ninian Park.
Ebanks-Blake was named Sylvan by his father after a lucky racehorse and he now hopes that luck will rub off as he is set to appear for Pearce’s side in the biggest match of his short international careers thus far.
The Molineux hot-shot said: “My first name was given to me by my dad, who had put a bet on a racehorse called Sylvan’s Delight. The horse came in and he won some money and took the name from there.
“Now it is such a proud moment - a delight - for me to see fans at Molineux walking around with my name on their shirts. I hope this is my reward for all the hard work I have put in.”
In his first season for Wolves last year, Ebanks-Blake won the Championship’s’ Golden Boot, scoring 23 goals, while he has scored twice in his last three games for Mick McCarthy’s high-flying side.
Ebanks-Blake hopes his goals can help guide Wolves to promotion to the Barclays Premier League this season. And he hopes England fans will see the player who caught the attention of Manchester United in his days as a schoolboy with Cherry Hinton Lions in Cambridge.
Pearce’s young guns just missed out on a place in the final of the European Championships 2007, being knocked out in the semi-finals after losing 13-12 on penalties to the hosts, Holland. Ebanks-Blake wasn’t in the side then but believes that experience will make the squad even more determined.
He said: “Our aim is definitely to go one better. The finals are coming up and we have a good chance of being one of the teams there.”
The Wolves’ youngster had hoped to face some of his club-mates in the competition but Sam Vokes, Dave Edwards and Wayne Hennessy have all been promoted to the Wales senior squad.
He said: “It is a shame I won’t be facing them but good for them. If they were in the Under 21 side I think the manager would have been asking me for some inside knowledge!”
Ebanks-Blake continued: “I have been working hard and training hard and just trying to pick up where I left off last year. We have a very good team at Wolves and have started the season well and have players with the ability to service me goals. It has been easy for me. We are just continuing to do the same things and hopefully we will get our reward this year.”
The youngster sees similiarities between manager McCarthy and national Under-21 manager Pearce. He said: “Both are hard-working and honest men who give you belief in your ability. They know what they want from their players. It is an easy transition, to be honest.”
The striker knows there is stiff competition up front with this England squad, but says seeing Theo Walcott make the step up to Fabio Capello’s senior group has given him encouragement. “It certainly inspires me,” he said. “If I keep working hard, then hopefully I will make it one day.
“When I was younger, I never thought I would be standing in an England tracksuit. I have just always had the philosophy that you should enjoy life, work hard and enjoy your football and see where that takes you.
“That is what I did and it is starting to bear fruit now. If you work hard and enjoy yourself, then the chance may come.”
Ebanks-Blake is looking forward to the thought of playing in front of a capacity Villa Park crowd in the second leg next Tuesday - a crowd he hopes will include many Wolves fans. He said: “That would be brilliant. I hope the local fans turn out and get behind us.”