U20s impress Keith Downing after second place in Germany

Wednesday 14 Oct 2015
England U20s head coach Keith Downing

Keith Downing has been impressed by his England Under-20s squad and believes they have taken a lot from their recent experience in Germany.

Downing’s Young Lions finished runners-up in the Mercedes-Benz Elite Cup after a 1-0 defeat to the hosts in Tuesday’s decider in Heidenheim.

Yet after the 10-day trip for the four nations competition, which included wins over Holland and Turkey, the head coach says his players have learned much that will help them as they progress through the England system.

Germany 1-0 England U20s

Mercedes-Benz Elite Cup
Tuesday 13 October
Voith-Arena, Heidenheim, Germany

“The group of players we took out to Germany really impressed me. Over the three games I was very pleased, not just with the results but the performances as well,” Downing told TheFA.com.

“Every one of the 21 players who came out made a good contribution and the game time was shared around.

“We only took five 1995 birthdates – the competition was open-aged in terms of 95 and 96 ages – so it was a youngish group and overall I’m happy with the way they performed.

“To come second in a highly competitive four-nation tournament was pleasing.“

He continued: “We’re obviously disappointed with the result against Germany. I thought the first half was as good an international game I’ve seen with both teams playing some high-standard football.

Alex Gilliead goes up against Max Wittek

Newcastle's Alex Gilliead battles with Germany's Max Wittek

“I thought in the second half they had a bit more quality than us and we got a little tired, and overall Germany probably shaded the second half and deserved to win the game.

“I’m pleased with the way the players have approached the whole ten days together, it’s a long tournament, but their attitude right to the end has been excellent.

Downing added: “The players have experienced playing against different game styles, different formations.

“Understanding game-management, playing in a tournament and knowing how to qualify from a four-team group, if you look at it in European Championship terms.

“We’ve just tried to give them experiences that will hopefully, in the long run, help them in proper tournaments.”

Matt Grimes and goalscorer Maximilian Dittgen

Swansea's Matt Grimes and Germany goalscorer Maximilian Dittgen

Former West Bromwich Albion coach and caretaker manager Downing took charge of the U20s earlier this summer and enjoyed his first get-together with his players in September.

His saw his side beat Czech Republic 5-0 in a behind-closed-door game at St. George’s Park before they lost to the same opposition 1-0 in Shrewsbury two days later.

After returning from Germany, the U20s’ next meet-up will see them travel to France for two games against Les Bleus in November, and Downing says he is looking forward to the next chance to work with the team.

“I’m really enjoying it. We’ve got an extremely good team around us – coaches and staff – and I am really experiencing new things,” said the ex-Wolves midfielder.

“It’s international football and different to what I’m used to, going out to tournaments and having 10-day stays, so all good experience for me, too.

“Working with some good players, the best at this level in the country, is really pleasing as well.”

England U20s captain Bryn Morris

Bryn Morris leads the U20s out against Czech Republic in Shrewsbury

He added: “We go on to France in November, there is obviously a core of players here, one or two will be added, one or two will be taken away, but in the main I’m looking forward to working with them again in November.

“We’ll have a good debrief of this tournament, look at the three matches and take stock, but a lot of positives have come out of it.

“We’d have liked to have won it, but the players have taken a lot from it, we’ve got some things to work on, but overall a lot of positives.”

By Jamie Bradbury FA Editor