Soccer

England U21 job is ‘utterly impossible’, says coach Aidy Boothroyd as early Euros exit looms

England Under-21s coach Aidy Boothroyd has suggested that his role is “the utterly impossible job”, with his side on the cusp of a group-stage exit from the European Championship.

Back-to-back defeats by Switzerland and Portugal in their opening two games have left England needing a win against Croatia today to give themselves any chance of reaching the quarter-finals of the tournament, held across Hungary and Slovenia.

But such a feat would not change the long-standing issues that have affected the U21 set-up, according to Boothroyd, who complained about his best players being used in the senior squad.

“The England senior men’s job was called the impossible job,” said the 50-year-old – who guided England to the semi-finals in 2017 – ahead of the showdown with Croatia.

“The England U21 team is the utterly impossible job. It’s not possible to win at all levels.

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“Part of the reason we haven’t won this for 37 years is [that the U21s’ role is] to get players to the first team.”

Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Reece James and Jude Bellingham are the players aged 21 and younger to have been called up by Gareth Southgate for the senior team’s World Cup qualifying matches this month, while 22-year-old Mason Mount was also eligible to represent Boothroyd’s side at this year’s U21 Euros.

Boothroyd said he has been in regular contact with Southgate, while Football Association technical director John McDermott has accompanied the U21 squad throughout the ongoing Euros.

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“Are we on the same page? Absolutely. All the way through the pathway, we’re on the same page,” Boothroyd said.

“You shouldn’t be working in youth development if you think your job is to win every game and not produce players for the senior team.

“We have won things in the younger age groups and as they’ve matured, they’ve been fast-tracked. That’s how it works. That is the way to do it.

“Could you imagine a reserve-team manager going to a first-team manager and asking to have their best player to win the reserve-team championship? That wouldn’t happen.

“The only team that needs to win is the senior team. The main thing is the senior team, everyone is here to support the senior team.”

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