Head Coach, Kenny Swain, has led two U16 sides to success in two separate tournaments in 2008.
During the final days of 2008, TheFA.com will be taking a look at the fortunes of every England team throughout the year, starting today with the England U16s.
2008 saw Head Coach Kenny Swain guide two U16 sides to success in two separate tournaments.
The Young Lions travelled to France in March to take on Japan, Germany and USA in the group stage of the Montaigu tournament.
A friendly defeat to Holland the month before was quickly forgotten as England ran out comfortable 3-1 winners in their opening fixture against Japan, with goals from Jose Baxter, Ezekiel Fryers and Luke Freeman.
Germany were the next team to be put to the English sword as Arsenal youngster Emmanuel Frimpong scored the only goal of the game.
suffered their only defeat to USA, although they had done enough in their first two matches to qualify for the Final where they faced the hosts. The Young Lions were crowned winners of the Montaigu tournament following a penalty shoot-out, with Baxter, Frimpong, Fryers, Ryan Tunnicliffe and Jonjo Shelvey all registering successful spot-kicks.
The majority of these players have now made the step up to the U17s and will hope to be involved in England’s bid to qualify for next summer’s European Championship.
The Final victory over France was the last outing for an England U16 side until October when they would once again defend their title in the annual Victory Shield. England had won the previous seven Shields and with a new crop of youngsters available to him, Swain set about developing another winning U16 side – and they began in devastating fashion.
A brace from Benik Afobe, goals from Ross Barkley, Ra’vel Morrison and Jake Fowler, and an own goal from Ben Oliver secured an emphatic 6-0 win over Northern Ireland in Ballymena.
Their next match proved a lot more difficult as a resolute Wales side hustled and harried England in every area of the pitch. The match seemed destined for a draw until Afobe latched on to a through ball from George Thorne to slide home the winner in the dying moments. This goal meant that England needed only a point against Scotland in their final match to secure their eighth straight Victory Shield success.
On a foggy November night in Lincoln, Afobe was once again England’s hero as he opened the scoring by nodding home an Aziz Deen-Conteh corner after just eleven minutes.
Connor Wickham’s close range finish in the second half gave England a two-goal lead which they never looked like surrendering and it was left to Luke Garbutt and Louis Laing to lift the Victory Shield in front of over 5,000 fans at Sincil Bank.
Assistant Coach, Noel Blake, expressed his delight at the way these Young Lions handled international football for the first time.
"Winning the Shield is pleasing, but the development of these players is the most important thing," he continued.
"The lads were presented with three very different games and dealt with each one brilliantly.”
Swain has admitted this particular group of players is an “exciting” one and ahead of next April’s Montaigu tournament, he is keen to test them against a team from outside the Home Nations.
In February, his side will travel to Hoffenheim to take on Germany in the 26,000-capacity Carl-Benz-Stadion.