Updated: Wednesday, 23rd May 2018 @ 3:31pm

Euro U17: England ready to 'deliver when it counts', says coach Cooper

Euro U17: England ready to 'deliver when it counts', says coach Cooper

| By Jimmy Booker

England’s U17 stars catapulted themselves onto the global stage in October by trouncing Spain 5-2 in the World Cup final.

And several months on from that glorious night in Kolkata, Steve Cooper’s charges have the chance to add to their silverware on home soil as the UEFA European Under-17 Championship comes to England for the first time this month.

Matches will be hosted by Rotherham United, Chesterfield, Walsall, Loughborough University, Burton Albion and St. George’s Park from May 4-20.

The draw for the tournament was performed at the home of English football last month by England legend Wayne Rooney and John Delaney, chairman of the UEFA Youth & Amateur Football Committee.

Steve Cooper’s Young Lions were drawn in Group A with Switzerland, Italy and Israel. They kick off the tournament against Israel at Chesterfield on Friday 4 May (7pm), face Italy at Walsall on Monday 7 May (3pm) before taking on the Swiss at Rotherham on Thursday 10 May (7pm).

Cooper is hoping for more success this time around and, while remaining grounded in his hopes, wants his side to give the home fans something to shout about.

“We’ll be respecting all teams like we do but very much focusing on getting ourselves right when the games come along and we’ll be ready to deliver when it counts,” he said.

“It’s a great platform for the players and the countries to show what they’ve got and has produced some excellent players who have become well known as seniors.

“We’re so excited - the U17s come around every year and they’re always a major experience for the players.

“It’s the first UEFA or FIFA tournament they can play in. For it to be on home soil this year, it’s fantastic to be a part of.

"We’re really excited about it and thrilled for the opportunity to give it our best and hopefully deliver when it comes.”

Rooney famously announced himself to the English footballing public by rifling in from 25 yards against Arsenal in October 2002 to claim a 2-1 win for Everton.

But the 32-year-old, now England’s record goalscorer and a five-time Premier League winner with former club Manchester United, made his mark on the international scene earlier that year by winning the Golden Player award for best performer at the 2002 U17 Euro tournament in Denmark.

The striker, now back at Goodison Park, believes the foundation the tournament provided him and others, such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba, will help produce the next generation of global stars.

“I remember the 2002 tournament,” recalled Rooney. “We got to the semi-finals and it was a great experience.

“It’s a time in your career where you are still developing, you really enjoy it and you enjoy the different challenges.

“These tournaments can catapult you onto the next level and break into the first team at your club.

“And it’s exciting for the fans coming to these tournaments – they can look out for players from their clubs, players from other clubs, and which of those players can go on to become the next superstar and the next big name in football.”

As well as the draw, the venue also hosted a ‘For All’ tournament, which saw national coaches like Paul Simpson and Keith Downing take part in grassroots coaching of several teams, including junior boys and girls as well as walking football sides, from U17 Euro host regions.

England manager Gareth Southgate was also on hand to witness the draw and has urged fans to flock to the turnstiles to see the next generation of young talents pull on the famous Three Lions shirt.

“It’s great for the public as well as the players,” said Southgate, who played on home soil as part of the England Euro '96 team.

“This tournament has been the starting point for so many top careers – it’s an opportunity to see the stars of tomorrow and for the youngsters to understand tournament football and the different pressures that brings, as well as high quality opposition.

“It’s been a really key part of our players’ development and in the last few years we’ve had great success.

“There’s a real enthusiasm and excitement about the quality of young players who are coming through.

“The future is very exciting - as a country we’re producing technically good players who are more tactically aware and that can only be good for England.”

See the stars of tomorrow in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, 4-20 May 2018. Visit www.TheFA.com/U17Euro for tickets and further information