England Expects For Anton

TONIGHT Anton Ferdinand hopes to line-up for the England Under-21s and transfer his excellent club form onto the international stage as Peter Taylor's side look to top Qualifying Group Six for the UEFA Under-21 European Championships.

The 20-year-old Academy graduate has turned in some fine displays at the heart of West Ham United's defence, striking up a solid partnership with Welsh international Danny Gabbidon.

But the only thing on Anton's mind at the moment is helping England Under-21s to victory over Austria this evening and Poland on Tuesday.

"There's nothing better than going away and playing for your country," he said, "especially at Under-21 level which is only one level away from the senior side.

"I'm really looking forward to the game tonight and hopefully I can get into the side and put in a good performance.

"We've got a couple of injuries in the defence with Calum Davenport and Liam Ridgewell missing out, but some good lads have come into the squad and we're really positive going into the Austria match.

"All matches at international level are tough and the Austria game will be no different. But we've got every confidence that we can go out there and get the win that we need.

"It should be a great atmosphere at Elland Road, all the boys are really looking forward to it and we just want to go out there and do a good job.

"It's a tremendous honour to represent your country at any level, but to be in the Under-21 squad with so many of the country's top young players is a fantastic experience and one I always enjoy."

Six points from the games against Austria and Poland will give England a great chance of finishing top in their Qualifying Group, however that will depend on the performances of close rivals Germany who are on the same number of points.

Both sides have already secured their places in the Play-offs, which will decide the teams who compete for the European Championships next year. However, as Anton explains, there is still a lot to play for as top place in the group would give England a potentially easier game in the play-offs.

"It's good to know that we have already qualified for the play-offs," he admitted, "but that won't be entering our minds when we are out there on the pitch.

"We will be doing all we can to win these two games because it could be very important as to who we draw in the play-offs. It could be the difference between drawing one of the top sides and having an easier route.

"Finishing top of the group would be an excellent achievement and hopefully we can do it."

Anton is also hoping to bring some good experiences with England back to his club form as Hammers look forward to a trip to the City of Manchester Stadium a week on Saturday.

"A successful trip with England always gives me a boost going back to West Ham," he said. "Obviously playing for my club is what I do day in day out and hopefully I can do well with England and then come back ready to get back into playing for West Ham United.

"We've got a tough trip to Manchester City coming up, but having come away with a draw at Sunderland things are still going very well for us and everyone will be up for the game next weekend."