Head Coach reflects on benefit of Montaigu Tournament to his squad.
By Nicholas Veevers
The England U16s squad return home from France today after securing third spot at the annual Montaigu Tournament over the last week and Head Coach Kenny Swain
believes the experience will have served the players well in terms of their own development and international experience.
A final game victory against host nation France
on Monday meant Swain’s side finished third out of the 12 teams involved and whilst this year’s Tournament didn’t end with England winning the Final like last year, Swain believes his players will have benefited more by taking on the French in their concluding match.
“In a way, whilst we were disappointed not to have played in the Final itself, the game against France was the one that we really wanted,” Swain told TheFA.com.
“And if you’d have offered me at the start of the week the chance to play them in the last game, regardless of it being the Final or not, I would have taken that.
“The game itself was a great lesson for us. We outplayed France in the first half and got ourselves a goal in front, which was thoroughly deserved.
“In the second-half, we took a bit of a pounding at times and for the last 15 minutes we were really under the cosh against the host nation and with the crowd behind them. That’s something that the players haven’t really experienced yet and it was a real test for us at times.
“But we competed well, stuck with it and saw the game out and I have to pay tribute to all of the players as that is a game that they will have learnt so much from and they showed some really positive qualities and came through it.”
Prior to Monday’s play-off, England’s schedule had seem them draw 1-1 with Japan
in the opening game, beat Morocco 1-0
before drawing against Russia
in the semi-final only to lose out in a penalty shoot-out for a spot in the Final.
And it’s the variety of games and opponents that this competition offers which leaves Swain in no doubt to its value after already lifting the Victory Shield
and beating Spain in Madrid
“It’s been as good as any of the trips that we’ve had to Montaigu in previous years so we’ve been pleased with it overall,” he explained.
“As it was the 40th anniversary of the competition, there were 12 nations competing this year and the lads have had the benefit of playing against Asian, African, Eastern European and European teams.
“That is a priceless experience and offers a different nature of challenges for them to adjust to.
“We remained unbeaten too, aside from a penalty shoot-out against Russia but unbeaten over the course of 80 minutes, so the lads maintained their run over the course of the season and they’ve had a good record this season.”
The players will now go into next season’s U17 reckoning with that experience under their belt and with more games to play before the UEFA European U17 Championship begins in October coming up in August, it’s now down to the players to continue to impress.
“They are bang on target with the progress that other U16s teams in the past have set and all of the lads applied themselves really well across the whole week,” added Swain.
“They showed a terrific focus both on and off the pitch and I felt that they grew with the tournament.
“A lot of the players have really staked their claim and made a solid impression for next season’s U17s squad and we still have the Nordics to go in August as well.”