Downing keen to bridge the gap for England youngsters

Friday 28 Aug 2015
Keith Downing's first game in charge of England U20s takes place on 7 September
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It's been an exciting start to the Premier League season for England’s young players with a number of Three Lions stars playing starring roles in the early weeks of the new campaign.

16-year-old Reece Oxford may have hit the headlines with his display for West Ham against Arsenal, but he has not been alone in flying the flag for the Young Lions.

Joe Gomez, Matt Targett and Brendan Galloway have all proved consistent starters for their clubs throughout August, following success at various levels for England.

England v Czech Republic

International U20 Match
7.30pm, Monday 7 September 2015
Greenhous Meadow, Shrewsbury Town FC
Tickets: £3 and £1.50
Call 01743 273943 to purchase

And new England Under-20s coach Keith Downing arguably has the age group most on the cusp of making the step Oxford and co have made and he believes preparation is the key to taking their chance when it comes.

"They need the opportunity, but it has to be the right time and the right place," Downing told TheFA.com.

"First team football is an intense environment. It is scrutinised every day and you are examined by TV cameras and coaches.

"The players have to handle the pressure to do it week in and week out so it is not only an examination of them physically but also mentally. It is a big gap to bridge."

Downing knows just how difficult that pathway can be after his time in charge of the U18s and U21s at West Bromwich Albion.

"A lot of people don’t realise how big a gap it is," he said.

"The players need people to know when to encourage them.

"It is a long process but there’s enough talent in the England pool and they will get opportunities in their respective first teams."

Downing has seen that process bear fruit with players such as Saido Berahino and George Thorne emerging from the Albion youth ranks in recent years.

The former Cheltenham boss worked alongside current FA Technical Director Dan Ashworth at the Baggies to ensure there was a style of play running through the club which made transitioning into the first team easier.

England Under-21s

Downing worked with Saido Berahino as he came through the Academy ranks at WBA

And Downing says that the same level of consistency is present in the national set up.

"We are all aware of the England DNA within the coaching group," he said.

"There’s continuity within the group and that’s how we are going to play."

Downing takes charge of the U20s for the first time when his side face Czech Republic at Greenhous Meadow in Shrewsbury on Monday 7 September.

The former Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder admits he’s can’t wait to get stuck into his new job.

"I’m really excited about international management, it is an honour to be a part of the England set up," he said.

"This will be the first opportunity for me spend time with the players in camp and we have seven days together so it is important to get to know them as individuals and discover their strengths and weaknesses."

Tickets for the game in Shrewsbury are on sale now and cost just £3 for adults and £1.50 for concessions. They can be purchased directly from Shrewsbury Town FC by clicking here or by calling 01743 273943.

By Chris Hall Digital Content Officer