A respectful Peter Jeffrey says pride in playing for England will ensure his England squad do not take things for granted at the European Mixed Team qualifiers in Milton Keynes this coming weekend.
England are overwhelming favourites to qualify from Group 1 with a full weekend of fixtures against Italy, Belgium and Hungary ahead but head coach Jeffrey has still named the strongest possible squad available in a mark of respect to their rivals.
The line up boasts six Rio 2016 Olympians named alongside Commonwealth medallists and national champions - and with the event being staged at the National Badminton Centre, England will enjoy all the home comforts of playing at their training environment.
Have a flick through the list of rivals’ world rankings and you could be quick to dismiss a serious challenge to England reaching the Championships proper in Denmark next February. However Peter Jeffrey says his talented side will need to be on their a-game.
“I think it important we put out a strong squad for every fixture." Jeffrey told Badminton England.
"We have players who have been performing, and winning titles, on the World Tour this year but we cannot for one second think qualification is a formality. We have to go out and do our job professionally and if we do that then the team points should take care of themselves and we will do ourselves proud."
England have a rich heritage at the European Mixed Team Championships having been crowned Europe’s best five time and reached the final on a further nine occasions. However, this is the first year that qualifiers have been introduced to the team format as Badminton Europe look to expand the number of teams competing.
It is a hurdle England are eager to overcome as the look to improve on the semi final finish two years ago in Lubin, Poland.
“We will respect the opposition and prepare properly to play whoever is put in front of us. The nations’ may not have the level of World Tour winner we can put out but we are expecting them to bring pride in playing for their country.
"To beat England would be a big deal and we have to be ready to deal with for that and match that level of pride which I am sure my players will.”
“We could have drafted in a few younger players for these fixtures and given them the experience of pulling on a England shirt at this level. But we want to create a winning mentality across the squad and ultimately the senior players want to share in the pride and passion that comes in playing for England.
"This event matters to us from the start. It will be a first of most of them to play as a national team on home soil and that is something that I want to enjoy.
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photo credit: BadmintonPhoto