Take a look back at the last 12 months for John Peacock's Young Lions and what lies ahead in 2009.
It has been a mixed year for England’s U17 team in 2008, which saw John Peacock’s side miss out on featuring in a major tournament in the European Championship finals, but then ending the year on a high and in with a chance of qualifying for the 2009 finals.
The year started with a trip to Portugal for the Algarve Tournament in February, which featured France and Denmark as well as the hosts and England.
There was an encouraging start too, as England’s opening game with the Danes resulted in a 3-0 victory to get 2008 off with a bang as goals from Ryan Donaldson, Matthew Briggs and Dean Parrett proved the difference.
That was followed with two more impressive results as France were defeated by 2-0 before Portugal held the Young Lions to a 0-0 draw. It was the team’s sixth successive clean sheet though, so Peacock could take plenty of positives.
That tournament was in preparation for the European U17 Championship Elite Round Qualifying in Israel the following month, where they would come face-to-face with France again.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t repeat the win enjoyed in Portugal a month earlier and were held to a 1-1 draw, with the French equalising Jack Rodwell’s second half goal only two minutes from time.
And when the second game saw England lose narrowly against Russia by 3-2, their hopes of reaching the Finals in Turkey were ended and the Round was finished off with a 2-2 draw against Israel.
So onto the new season and a fresh set of players for Peacock to work with, starting with the Nordic Tournament in Sweden in July.
That started with a game against Finland and a goal from Chelsea midfielder Billy Knott (left) proved the difference there, before Ipswich’s Connor Wickham scored the winner against Iceland in the second game.
A resolute Norway managed to block out the Young Lions for a 0-0 draw in the penultimate game, before the Tournament came to an unfortunate end as the final match with Denmark resulted in a 6-1 win for the Scandinavians.
It was then back to home soil in August, as England played host to The FA International U17 Tournament which took place in Anglia.
The Tournament started with a game against Portugal at Rushden and Diamonds’ Nene Park, where Manchester United midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe put England into a deserved lead. However, two fine strikes from the visitors’ hitman Fillip Barros saw Portugal take an unlikely lead which they managed to hold onto.
Two days later and Peterborough’s London Road was the venue as England took on Israel, who proved to be a strong and solid opponent, intent on keeping a clean sheet. It looked as though they would succeed until substitute Jacob Walcott (left), a distant cousin of Arsenal and England’s Theo, broke the deadlock in the dying minutes to secure a 1-0 win.
England ended the Tournament on a high, as a brace from Tunnicliffe at Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium helped Peacock’s team to a 2-0 win against Italy to leave confidence high before the squad’s trip to Tenerife for the First Qualifying Round of the European U17 Championship.
Armenia, Spain and Estonia were drawn out with England, with the top two in the group progressing. It was a tricky opening game too as England came up against Armenia, who defended in numbers and held out for a goalless draw. England hit the woodwork twice through Jonjo Shelvey and Jack Wilshere, but they just couldn’t find the breakthrough and had to settle for a draw.
The second game with Estonia saw the Young Lions more than make up for it though, as they smashed seven goals to as good as seal their place in the next round. The goals were spread around the team too, with seven separate scorers recorded in Tom Parkes, José Baxter, Shelvey, Luke Freeman, Liam Head, Tunnicliffe (pictured above) and an own goal from Estonia’s Tamm.
England’s final match of 2008 saw them seal their place in next year’s Elite Round Qualifying as they faced Spain in Campo los Cuartos knowing that a win or draw would be enough to secure progress. Walcott’s early goal put England firmly in the driving seat too, but the hosts piled pressure on in the second half and when the Lions were reduced to nine men after red cards were shown to both Eddie Oshodi and Emmanuel Frimpong, Spain levelled in the last minute through Ezekiel Fryers’ own goal.
The new year sees Peacock and his players preparing for the Elite Round in Hungary, which has seen England grouped with the hosts, Portugal and Serbia in what looks to be a tricky group.
“It’s a tough draw for us,” Peacock added.
“It’s very similar to this year when we played France, Israel and Russia.
“To be honest though, you have to expect that when you get to the Elite Round so we’ll prepare for it and look forward to the games.”