Young Lions must learn from heartbreaking Ukraine loss

Thursday 29 May 2014
England U19 head coach Noel Blake reflects on Euro defeat to Ukraine

England U19s head coach Noel Blake says that despite suffering the pain of a last-minute defeat against Ukraine, his young side will learn from the heartbreaking loss.

Following victories over Montenegro and Scotland, England went into Thursday’s decisive encounter with Ukraine only needing a draw to book their place at the U19 European Championships in Hungary.

However, despite dominating much of the game, a Calum Chambers own-goal in stoppage time condemned Blake’s side to a first defeat in more than two years – and he admitted it was hard to take.

"I can’t find the words to be honest with you," he said.

"It’s hard to take because I thought they played really well and created enough chances to have won the game.

"Game management is a big key. And when you get the opportunities, you have to take them because at any given moment the game can turn on the flick of a coin. 
And that’s what happened today."

Following their opening-day draw against Scotland, and 4-0 victory over Montenegro – Ukraine went into the game two points behind England, who led the group with six points.

“I just thanked the players for what they have done this year – all year we’ve not lost a football match, and what a time to lose it.”

Noel Blake 

And England would have been strong favourites to secure the point they needed to reach the Finals and were visibly distraught as the referee blew the final whistle – but Blake said his players must take something from suffering such experiences at a young age.

"It is about development," he added. 

"But you know when you play a football match you want to win the game. 

"How you win is important and like I said, they’ve played some really good football – you always feel that when you play nations such as these, then their forte is counter-attacking and set plays and that was our downfall today.

"I just thanked the players for what they have done this year – all year we’ve not lost a football match, and what a time to lose it. We’ve gone all the way – apart from the very last minute – so it’s disappointing but I’ve just said to them that they’ve done more than enough to have won the football match.

"There are lessons to be learnt. But in terms of where do they go – like I said to them there, if in three or four years down the line some of these are in the next World Cup for the seniors – or the Under-21s at the next tournament – then as long as they’ve learnt lessons from this, then that’s the key.

"It wasn’t meant to be. It’s harsh. But I’ve just said to them there that our U17s in the 1991 age group – with Jack Wilshere among them - lost in Israel with the very last kick of the game. Internationals have come out of that.

"There’s internationals, senior internationals, among them in there in my view and ultimately that’s what it’s about."

Watch the full interview with Blake in the media player above.

By Jamie Reid Senior Writer Pirelli Stadium, Burton