John Peacock prepares for his landmark 100th UEFA match

Sunday 10 May 2015
Peacock and captain Ryan Ledson with the Euro Championship trophy in 2014
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John Peacock is playing down his milestone of 100 games in UEFA competition - but says it is fitting that Holland should be the opponents.

He reaches the unique landmark when his England Under-17s tackle the Dutch on Sunday in their second European Championship group match in Bulgaria.

It comes just twelve months after he guided the Young Lions to victory over Holland in last year’s Final.

Holland v England

UEFA European U17 Championship
Group D
Sunday 10 May 2015
Stara Zagora, Beroe, Bulgaria

“The next game is always the most important one. What’s important on Sunday is that we try to qualify for the quarter-finals. That would be special.

“It’s nice to reach the milestone, but I don’t think I’ll be reaching the 200 mark,” the veteran boss told TheFA.com, who has faced Sunday’s opposition on a number of occasions.

“It does come around that way [playing Holland again]. Portugal were the ones early on - we met each other a few times including the semis back in 2003.

“But the last few years it has been the Dutch more than anybody and we’ve had some memorable matches.”

Back in his playing days, the Leeds-born Peacock was a full-back and made 190 appearances for Scunthorpe United before turning his hand to coaching after hanging up his boots.

He started his first spell with The FA back in 1990, working as regional director in the programme of excellence in his adopted Midlands, but left eight years later to take over as academy director at Derby County.

“Howard Wilkinson had started his role in ’97 as FA technical director and I stayed for a little bit, but then I got offered the job at Derby,” he recalled. “I loved it there, they were in the Premier League at the time and they are a really good club.

“But then I got a call from Howard and Les Reed asking me if I’d go back to The FA, and I just felt that it was too good an opportunity to miss working with the country’s elite players again.”

Peacock became England U17s boss in 2002 (Sportsfile)

Peacock became England U17s boss in 2002 (Sportsfile)

It was in 2002 when the 59-year-old took charge of the Young Lions. Although the memory of his first competitive game in charge, a 2-0 win over Czech Republic at Chester, is a little hazy, he is sure of one thing – he never expected to still be in charge 99 UEFA games later.

“They called it the second qualifying round back then and it was on the 12 March 2003. I can’t remember much about the game, but it up was in the north west of England.

“It’s been 12 years so I would never have dreamt I’d reach this milestone - but I’ve been privileged to have worked with some very talented young men, who are good people, and lots of excellent staff along the way.

“The success I have had is down to these two factors - players and staff as well as a bit of good fortune along the way.”

Although over recent seasons it has been the Dutch he has become accustomed to locking horns with, it is the memories of his encounters with Spain that Peacock treasures the most.

Peacock and Gines Milendez ahead of the 2010 Final

Peacock and Gines Milendez ahead of the 2010 Final

“I like that picture,” he said with a glint in his eye as he was handed a copy of a photograph of him and former Spanish U17 boss Gines Milendez - who is now the Spanish Technical Director - ahead of the Final in 2010 that England won 2-1.

“We’ve had some great tussles with Spain over the years. The Final in 2007, which we lost 1-0, and then in the Final when we finally got that first trophy.

“Gines probably epitomised what it was about, the humility and the way you conduct yourself. They were developing some really top players at the time, so they were some great games and memories.”

And that first Euro victory is something the two-time winner still looks back fondly on.

“That was a special moment. It was unbelievable really. We’d been close and been to the semi-finals a few times before that and got to the Final in 2007 but lost. To get to another Final and win it, that was special and I remember us having a photo taken back at the hotel with the trophy – it was great.”

Peacock celebrates with his squad after their win in 2010

Peacock celebrates with his squad after their win in 2010

He continued: “After beating them in the Final, we drew them again the next year in the Elite Round, and it was a really tough game. They only needed a point to qualify at our expense and we ended up winning 2-1. We ended up getting to the semi-finals and lost to the Dutch, but it was a World Cup year so we qualified for that tournament in Mexico.

“That was a major game that for us. Nat Chalobah was our captain that day, Raheem Sterling and Nathan Redmond played too and I remember it very well.”

And his friend Milendez is not the only Spaniard who made a lasting impression on Peacock.

“Cesc Fabregas has to be one of the best players we’ve come up against,” he recalled.

“It was the semi-final in 2004. Mark Noble, who has had a distinguished career at West Ham, was our captain.

Fabregas was the best player Peacock has come up against

Fabregas was the best player Peacock has come up against

“Fabregas had played a year young for Spain the previous year, and played again the following year which was in 2004, so he was a bit special. Gerard Pique was suspended, so Fabregas captained the side.

“We were drawing 1-1 with about a minute to go, Fraizer Campbell equalised for us, but they broke from our corner and we weren’t right at the back and ended up conceding a penalty. Fabregas took it and scored and that was it – the second semi-final we had been beaten in on the bounce.”

He continued: “Paul Pogba is another one that springs to mind - we faced him in 2010 against France. Good player, he was at Manchester United at the time. Other ones are Toni Kroos and Mario Goetze of Germany.

“There have been some great names really – but we have always had some good ones ourselves that have gone on and done really well.”

Danny Welbeck and the 2007 squad look on as Peacock lines up a shot

Danny Welbeck and the 2007 squad look on as Peacock lines up a shot

And despite his personal success in guiding his country to glory twice at the Euros, nothing gives Peacock as much satisfaction as seeing one of his former players make the breakthrough at senior level.

“Ultimately, the job of any development coach is to try and nurture the talent, challenge them, give them some key lessons to learn from both on and off the pitch – when they finally get to a senior cap it gives you an immense amount of pride.

“Even when they get to the Under-19s or Under-21s, it is still pleasing to see them moving up the ranks and doing well.”

He added: “I only get to see the lads now if I’m going to a match or sometimes at St. George’s Park. I’m not the best on social media, so it’s hard to stay in touch with some of them, but my wife Karen helps me with that and keeps me updated on how they are getting on. I’m always pleased to see them doing well.”

You can keep updated on how Peacock fairs in his 100th match against Holland on Sunday by following @England on Twitter, or by watching it live on Eurosport at 6pm.

By Gary Stonehouse Staff Writer in Pomorie, Bulgaria