More success for Spence

Jordan Spence's dream of captaining England to the 2009 European Under-19 Championship took a major step forward with qualification for the Elite round.

The West Ham United defender, who previously skippered the Young Lions to the 2007 U17 World Cup, helped marshall the team to a 3-1 win against mini-tournament hosts Northern Ireland on Friday. Still only 18, Spence is on the verge of first-team contention having travelled on the summer tour of North America and been on the bench for the first three games of the season. An athletic and imposing centre-back, he spent much of the last campaign as the regular right-back in the reserves.

In Friday night's victory, Henri Lansbury equalised and then put England in front before Rhys Murphy rounded out the scoring. Having opened the four-team section with a 3-0 victory against Albania, it meant two wins from two in the Group 9 qualifying pool and ensured England would go through to the next stage along with Serbia who also have six points. The two nations will meet on Monday to decide who will be group winners.

The Elite round will be staged in the spring next year and could also feature club-mates like Junior Stanislas and Freddie Sears, who missed out on this mini-tournament because of club commitments. The finals will be played in Ukraine next June. The West Ham United contingent will also hope to earn a place in the 2009 U20 World Cup in Egypt, with England already qualified for the September finals after playing at the 2008 U19 Euro earlier this summer.