An 'exciting time for the national game' says new U20 coach

Wednesday 05 Mar 2014
Aidy Boothroyd takes a hands-on approach in training

In his relatively short coaching career Aidy Boothroyd has experienced much.

He has tasted the thrill of promotion to the Premier League, the low of relegation and a rollercoaster ride of an FA Cup run that took him to the verge of the first Final at the new Wembley.

Since retiring as a player in 1998, Boothroyd has also managed in all four professional divisions in England – as well spells working with the youth development setups at Peterborough, West Bromwich Albion, Norwich City and Leeds United.

The 43-year-old’s most recent challenge as a national development coach puts him back on the training ground – where he is clearly in his element. Boothroyd’s first assignment is assisting U19s manager Noel Blake as his Young Lions side prepare to take on Turkey at Chester.

England v Turkey

U19s International 

7pm, Chester Swansway Stadium 

Tickets available on the gate 

£3 adults, £1 concessions

Donning a Three Lions tracksuit and working alongside the cream of the nation’s young talent, Boothroyd is clearing enjoying life in his new role, and as we meet at the team's Cheshire hotel, the former Watford boss speaks passionately about his hopes for the future.

"My first few days have been fabulous," he said. "It's great to get round the staff. I think that a lot of people probably don’t realise the work that goes into an event like this, to prepare for and the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes. 

"I've been very impressed with the professionalism of the group – in all aspects – and I've really enjoyed the time that I’ve had to work with the players."

Boothroyd's remit is, initially, that of what he describes as a "floating coach". 

Noel Blake and Aidy Boothroyd

Boothroyd has been assisting Noel Blake all week in Chester

Over the next year he will work alongside a number of the country’s development sides at various age groups - supporting and observing – before taking charge of the U20s side should they qualify for the 2015 FIFA World Cup in New Zealand.

"The core of the guys that are in the U19s now are going to be – hopefully if we can qualify – at the U20s World Cup and that's my role," he added. "I’m the U20s head coach and I’m going to be working hard to understand how it works, from Kenny [Swain] at the U16s all the way through.

"The fact that I've been lucky enough to work with all the age groups and senior teams is, I guess, quite unique in many ways and I hope to get the most out of that experience in all the coaching that I do and bring it to the system."

Boothroyd took to the training pitch with the youngsters for the first time on Monday and Tuesday, and was assigned control of segments of the sessions by Blake. 

A lively and popular character within the camp, the Yorkshireman has settled in quickly and it is clear the players have warmed to him. 

With much of the current group in line to feature at the U20s World Cup - should they navigate through the next two phases of qualification - Boothroyd also took the opportunity at Tuesday’s debrief to dangle the carrot of what qualification would mean to them.

Past U20 World Cup star performers were mentioned, including contemporary greats Paul Pogba, Oscar and Sergio Aguero. 

With the U19s a handful of good performances away from booking their place among the elite of world youth football – "do not underestimate where you are" was Boothroyd's message. And it resonated throughout the room.

U19s training

Boothroyd has been assisting on the training pitch all week

But what attracted him to the role in the first place? 

"It's England. It’s my country. I’m English, I've come through the English learning system," he said. 

"I'm a big advocate of international football and getting players out there playing for international teams because I think it adds to their experience and makes them better more rounded people and players.  

"To have the opportunity to work for your country and in a federation with a history and the pride that we’ve got is fantastic. 

"Most importantly we’re at a very exciting time in our history as a country. We’ve got some very determined, intelligent people that are working away in finding a way for us to play – that not only works for the next couple of years, but also for the 10, 20, 25 or 30 years. 

"Of course it is going to take time to get us all on the same page, and we’re at the very very beginning of that – but the fact that I get a chance to contribute to that is hugely exciting."

England U19s take on Turkey at Chester at 7pm on Wednesday 5 March.

Tickets are available at the gate – priced £3 for adults, £1 for concessions. 

By Jamie Reid Senior Writer