Boothroyd to leave England U21s role

Aidy Boothroyd is to leave his role as England U21 head coach with immediate effect after five years in charge. The former Watford manager's contract is up in the summer, but he has decided to call ti

Boothroyd to leave England U21s role

Aidy Boothroyd is to leave his role as England U21 head coach with immediate effect after five years in charge.

The former Watford manager's contract is up in the summer, but he has decided to call time early following the team's elimination from the European Championships.

The FA will now begin a recruitment process for Boothroyd's replacement, while it is thought the 50-year-old wants a return to club management.

Boothroyd had described the job as "utterly impossible"[1] during last month's group stages of the European Championships, claiming the primary aim of the U21s is to get players to Gareth Southgate's senior squad.

England U21 boss Aidy Boothroyd 4:42
Speaking last month, Boothroyd said he was 'devastated' after the Young Lions were knocked out of the U21 Euros

Jude Bellingham, Reece James, Phil Foden and Mason Mount were among the players who could have been included in the squad in Slovenia, but instead featured for the senior team's World Cup Qualifiers[2].

"My job isn't to say to Gareth we should have Jude, Phil or Mason, it is about the senior team and it always will be," Boothroyd said.

The Young Lions began their U21 Euros campaign with defeats to Portugal and Switzerland in the group stages.

Their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals were then dashed in the final minutes against Croatia, with a 2-1 victory not enough for Boothroyd's side to progress as Domagoj Bradaric's injury-time stunner[3] proved crucial.

preview image 4:18
Watch highlights of Aidy Boothroyd's last game in charge of the England U21s, with a late Croatia goal knocking the Young Lions out of the European U21 Championship

Boothroyd, who replaced Southgate in the role in 2016, had enjoyed an unbeaten qualifying campaign with the U21s to reach the tournament.

He had also overseen their previous two European Championships, with England reaching the semi-finals in 2017 before crashing out of the groups in 2019.

England last won the U21 Euros in 1984, while the 2021 group-stage exit was their fifth in the past six editions.

In 2018, Boothroyd steered England to a third successive Toulon Tournament title, with the 2-1 victory over Mexico in the final[4] emulating the achievements of Southgate's U21s in 2016 and Neil Dewsnip's mixed-age group a year later.

England U21 tournament exits under Boothroyd…

Euro 2017

Nathan Redmond missed the decisive spot-kick in England U21's penalty shootout defeat to Germany at Euro 2017
Image: Nathan Redmond missed the decisive spot-kick in England U21's penalty shootout defeat to Germany at Euro 2017

Boothroyd took charge of England's U21s for the final two games of qualifying and maintained an unbeaten passage to the finals, where the Young Lions lost on penalties at the semi-final stage to Germany. England had drawn with Sweden in their opening group game but recovered to beat Slovakia and hosts Poland, before drawing 2-2 with Germany in normal time at the final four stage.

Boothroyd said at the time: "We might not have been at our best for long periods but we showed a real British bulldog spirit. We could have nicked it but that's football. We've practised, practised and practised penalties but the keeper has made two good saves. It was a real effort - a real backs against the wall job at times. It's been a long journey. The tournament has been fantastic. I'm sure there will be future senior players in this team."

Standout names in the squad: Jordan Pickford, Ben Chilwell, James Ward-Prowse, Demarai Gray, Tammy Abraham.

Euro 2019

Mason Mount and Aidy Boothroyd after England U21's defeat to Romania at Euro 2019
Image: Mason Mount and Aidy Boothroyd after England U21's defeat to Romania at Euro 2019

England once again qualified for the finals without suffering defeat - but dramatic late goals from France and Romania saw England eliminated from the group stage with a game to spare. France struck in the 89th and 94th minute to snatch a 2-1 win in the opener before eventual finalists Romania grabbed a 4-2 victory with strikes in the 89th and 93rd minute, with their third coming via a Dean Henderson error. To add salt to the wounds, Croatia netted an equaliser inside the final 10 minutes to draw the dead rubber third group game 3-3.

Boothroyd said at the time: "I genuinely believed we could do it but Dean Henderson's mistake, we all make mistakes and it's important we make sure he knows how important he is to us. If you don't take your chances and are not disciplined enough to stay on your feet, you are going to get punished. In order to get through this we have to take the positives out of it. We are on the right track in terms of how we play the game but we need to iron out the mistakes."

Standout names in the squad: Dean Henderson, Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount, James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Phil Foden, Demarai Gray, Tammy Abraham.

Euro 2021

Curtis Jones reacts to a missed opportunity against Croatia U21
Image: Curtis Jones reacts to a missed opportunity against Croatia U21

England were knocked out in the group stages once again despite a 2-1 win over Croatia in their final group game. After defeats to Switzerland and Portugal in their opening two games, Boothroyd's side needed to win by two clear goals and hope for a Portugal win over Switzerland. Portugal did their part of the job, but Domagoj Bradaric's injury-time screamer ensured Croatia went through to the quarter finals ahead of England on goal difference.

It was the fifth tournament out of the last six that England have exited at the group stage.

Boothroyd said at the time: "I spoke to the players, we gave ourselves a mountain to climb, and we almost did it. It's devastating right now, but I think an experience like this will stay with you forever."

And on his future, he added: "The number of players that have come through this system would suggest there is a pathway working. Our youngest players come into the building knowing they have a chance to play in the first team, with the way we're structured.

"I love being involved with these players. I really enjoy it, which makes it even more difficult to deal with it, to come out and speak with you and answer that question. It is a fair question to ask, I am going to keep going and we'll see what happens."

Standout names in the squad: Curtis Jones, Tom Davies, Ben Godfrey, Emile Smith Rowe, Eberechi Eze.

'If U21s not about success, don't enter tournaments'[5]

Sky Sports' Andy Hinchcliffe, who covered all three of England's games at this year's U21 tournament, said there was little point in entering international competitions without an aim to build a winning mentality among younger age groups.

He said: "Of course it's about progression, but why enter a tournament if you think winning games, or the tournament, breeding a winning mentality, doesn't matter? That has to be as important as being a pathway to the senior England team.

"Darren Bent was talking about how getting into the seniors is more about how you play for your clubs than for the England U21s.

England U21 players appear dejected after being knocked out by Croatia
Image: England U21 players were dejected after being knocked out by Croatia

"If the message for the U21s is about style, how we play the game, your development as an international and not about how we win games, getting a winning mentality, then going to tournaments is absolutely pointless. We might as well play a load of U21 friendlies if it's about how you play rather than the results.

"You look at Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany, they breed winners. That's the point of going to tournaments, working out how to get the job done in tournament football. It's not the same as qualifying, you're together for a longer period of time, you're against better opposition. It's about how you get the job done, then you can take that down the line into senior England competitions.

"Yes, the squad could've been better with Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Trent Alexander-Arnold in it, but we've had very good squads in the past and they've not been able to get out of the group stages.

"It's starting to be a historic problem, and if it is about a pathway rather than being successful, then don't enter tournaments, because it's a waste of time - because we're not learning anything about how to progress at this level of tournament football.

"Breeding a winning mentality isn't just about winning with style, it's about winning when you're not the better team. Have you got the experience, have you got the experience of winning when you're not the best team?

"That's where England fell short in two of these games. In three matches, if you're not the better team, you're Gareth Southgate looking at that and thinking that has to be a bit of a worry."

References

  1. ^ "utterly impossible" (www.skysports.com)
  2. ^ World Cup Qualifiers (www.skysports.com)
  3. ^ Domagoj Bradaric's injury-time stunner (www.skysports.com)
  4. ^ 2-1 victory over Mexico in the final (www.skysports.com)
  5. ^ 'If U21s not about success, don't enter tournaments' (www.skysports.com)