England U17s’ dreams of lifting the European Championship for a second year running are over following today’s defeat against the Dutch, but this squad now have an even bigger tournament to look forward to in the shape of the FIFA U17 World Cup in Mexico.
It kicks-off in roughly a month’s time, so Head Coach John Peacock and Team Operations’ Claire Duggan will head straight from Serbia to Mexico, via two days at home, for next week’s draw when we will find out who, where and when they are in action.
Given the squad’s time together over the campaign, there is a real spirit in place with all of the players now looking forward to what should be a fine experience for them at such a young age. When Peacock took the team of 2007 to the U17 World Cup in Korea, they reached the quarter final stage and notable members of that squad included the likes of Danny Welbeck, Henri Lansbury, Dan Gosling, Alex Smithies, Jason Steele, Danny Rose and Jordan Spence amongst others, who have all since gone on to feature for England at more senior levels.
The world really is their oyster now, but for this afternoon at least, it’s the more sobering thought of returning back to England and their clubs before preparations kick-in for the World Cup.
As I type, the kit man’s room is a hive of activity with the players returning their training and leisure gear whilst the medical room is being tidied up and equipment being packed away for the journey home.
With a 4am departure from the hotel in Novi Sad on Friday morning to look forward to, they will be resting this afternoon before an early night in preparation for the flight from Belgrade to Munich. From there, connecting flights to London, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh should get everyone home by Friday afternoon.
As Peacock said after the game earlier, the players can be very proud of themselves for finishing in the top four in Europe. This tournament starts with over 50 nations vying for a place in the finals and is notoriously tough to reach the final stages. England U17s and U19s have both reached this stage for the last three years running, which highlights that we’re not far away at all. The likes of Spain and Portugal didn’t even qualify for the U17s finals this year, so it’s been a good season already which has the potential to get even better in the summer.
For now though, it’s over and I think it’s time to start packing myself…