Sunday, 30 May, 2010
Head Coach 'absolutely delighted' with U17s' maiden title success.
UEFA European U17 Championship
Rheinpark Stadion, Vaduz
By Glenn Lavery in Liechtenstein
John Peacock spoke of his pride after leading England to their first-ever European U17 crown.
His young side came from a goal down to beat two-time winners Spain in the Final of the UEFA Championship, ending a 17-year wait for silverware, dating back to when a Darren Caskey penalty against Turkey won the U18 (now U19) European title on home soil.
Gerard put Spain into the lead in the 22nd minute, though the ball did take a wicked deflection off Andre Wisdom which gave Jack Butland no chance in the England goal. The centre back soon made up for it by powering a header, from Josh McEachran’s corner, beyond Spanish ‘keeper Adrián Ortolá.
Buoyed by the equaliser England improved and ended the first half on top. Better was to come in just the second minute of the second half as Connor Wickham produced a confident finish to put the Young Lions 2-1 up, a lead they held on to valiantly to write themselves into English football history.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Peacock after the match.
“It’s the first time we’ve won this competition [and it’s] 17 years since we last won a European title so it’s a great day for all of us. I’m absolutely delighted for all 18 players because they have worked so hard and the spirit in the camp has been first class.
“This was never going to be a 2-0 or a 3-0 game. It was always going to be tight. We rode our luck but we also had some fantastic blocks and some fantastic defending and all  players contributed to a fantastic game of football.”
Spain have been the dominant force in international youth football in recent years and have amassed eight U16 and U17 Championships since 1986. Although this was England’s maiden success, after a 100 per cent record in qualifying, which they extended in the Finals (meaning they won all eleven games in this season’s competition), they were many people’s favourites for the title, including Czech Republic Head Coach Jiri Stol. Understandably then, before the Final both Peacock and Ginés Meléndez, the Spain Head Coach, predicted a game high on quality and entertainment and Peacock said it certainly did not disappoint.
“What we have to all consider is that there were 16-year-old players out there today,” he said.
“I thought there was some outstanding play [and] I thought it was a fantastic Final. It was two teams who play the game in the right spirit, both technically very gifted and we saw some very resolute defending, which was required at times.
“What we have given these players is a Finals tournament that they are going to gain lots of experience from. I’m sure they will gain many, many things from these last two weeks, which can only help them going forward.”
After near misses in 2003, 2004 and 2007, the class of 2010 can finally add to the 1993 success of Gary Neville and Robbie Fowler et al. and they can now take the U17 crown to England for the first time, an achievement Peacock credits to the improvement in the development of young English players.
“It means a lot to the English game,” he said of winning the Championship. “We’ve got our critics; that we’re not producing players. I think we have produced many, many good players in this tournament, we’ve seen that.
“What was missing was a trophy that we can put our name to. We’ve done that. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another 17 years for another one."