Henri Lansbury has warned his England Under-21 team-mates not to lose focus after a 4-0 thrashing of Belgium left them in a commanding position in their Euro 2013 qualifying group.
England sit eight points clear of Norway, although the latter have two games in hand and play England in the final match of the group stage.
Wednesday’s win in Middlesbrough eliminated Belgium, the only team to have taken points off England so far with a last-minute victory in Mons in November.
An easy win at the Riverside was enough to eradicate memories of that result.
“The lads have been on fire in training and that showed because every time we went forward we looked dangerous,” said Lansbury, who scored either side of Stephen Caulker’s header before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain added a stoppage-time penalty.
“We’re in a very good position now but we can’t get sloppy,” he added. “We now have to focus on the next game and get the three points.”
England travel to Azerbaijan in September, where a win would ensure they top the group and progress to the play-offs, before facing Norway at home four days later.
Lansbury collected man-of-the-match honours on Teesside, having opened the scoring with a stunning shot from deep on the left wing – wind-assisted, he admitted – in the ninth minute before turning home Wilfried Zaha’s cross seven minutes into the second half.
He was substituted 18 minutes from the end despite being on a hat-trick with caretaker manager Brian Eastick admitting he was concerned about his match fitness as he has not had regular football on loan at West Ham from Arsenal this season.
The 21-year-old is hoping his eye-catching display can help him get back into the reckoning as Sam Allardyce’s side push for promotion to the Premier League.
“A game like this is massive for me,” he said. “I’m just trying to get back into the team so I need to keep working hard for myself. Coming here helps massively and it’s great to get some playing time under my belt.”
Under-21s captain Jordan Henderson played only 72 hours after helping Liverpool lift the Carling Cup against Cardiff at Wembley.
The 21-year-old has revealed he would jump at a chance to play for Great Britain at the Olympics this summer.
Manager Chris Coleman says Wales must try and move on following their 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica in an emotional Gary Speed Memorial Match at Cardiff City Stadium.
The friendly marked the first time Wales had played since the death of manager Speed in November and several touching tributes were paid to the former Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United midfielder.
His sons Ed and Tom led the side out along with captain for the night Craig Bellamy and injured skipper Aaron Ramsey, with Ed going on to offer words of support to the Wales dressing room following the defeat.
During the national anthems cards were raised at one end of the ground to reveal the name ‘Gary’ on the background of a Welsh flag, while there were performances from several Welsh artists and a minute’s applause before kick-off and almost 50 former internationals took to the field at half-time to pay their tributes.
Given the circumstances it was perhaps no surprise that Wales, without Ramsey and hamstring-injury victim Gareth Bale, could not reproduce the form that had seen them win four of their last five games under Speed, with impressive teenage Arsenal forward Joel Campbell grabbing a seventh-minute winner with a cool finish.
Coleman, a close friend of Speed’s, was visibly emotional during his post-match press conference and admitted it had been a “terribly tough night” for all concerned.
But with Wales having just two friendlies, against Mexico in May and Bosnia-Herzegovina in August, before they start their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, Coleman says the national side must now find the strength to move forward and honour Speed’s memory.
He said: “Gary would have wanted us to move on. We’ve all paid our respects and everyone played their part, but we must now look forward.
“We will move on eventually but I think at the minute maybe we weren’t ready to, so we needed to deal with this game.
“But we have Mexico in May and when we meet up then I have got to find myself as if I can’t move on with it the players can’t as they will be looking to me for guidance.
“I will be ready in another two or three months, I will be ready before the qualifiers start but I just wasn’t ready for tonight, this was very difficult to see all his family here.”
Coleman also revealed that Bellamy, who could have won his 68th and final cap against the Costa Ricans, had told him he needed to pick himself up ahead of the fixture.
“Craig texted me on Tuesday and said we should go for a cup of coffee and Craig told me to pull my finger out,” he said.
“He knows me and he knew I hadn’t been myself. We haven’t been looking forward to this, but now we have got to look to May and Mexico and be ready.”
While it was a sombre occasion, the game marked the return to Wales action of Bolton full-back Sam Ricketts.
Ricketts had not played for his country in just over a year after suffering a serious Achilles injury, but he came off the bench in the second half to win his 65th cap.
He said: “I am delighted to be back in the fold, I’ve been to all the Wales games while I have been out so I have been around the squad but you can’t beat playing.”
And Ricketts, who was not play under Speed, hopes Coleman can ensure that Wales continue the success they experienced under their former boss
“This has been a difficult time,” he said. “This was the first time we have been together and it was a chance to mourn together and pay tribute to Gary. The fans who turned up were fantastic but it was a horrible occasion.
“Chris is similar in stature to Gary, they were highly respected in the game and hopefully he can carry on the philosophy and we can do well in the qualifiers.”