Steve Cooper: Euro squad ready for 'biggest spotlight'

Wednesday 04 May 2016
Steve Cooper named his 18-man Euro squad on Wednesday

England Under-17s boss Steve Cooper is hoping this month’s Euro Finals can provide his squad with the next step in their development.

The Young Lions are in Azerbaijan preparing for Friday’s opener against Sweden, having previously negotiated two qualifying rounds to reach this year’s last 16.

And the head coach knows that this latest challenge for his players will also be a massive experience for them as they look to build their international careers.

UEFA European U17 Championship

The Finals
5-21 May 2016
Live on Eurosport

"These games will be the ones with the biggest spotlight that they've had so far and it's really important that young players experience tournaments soon," said Cooper, who named his 18-man squad for the Finals on Wednesday afternoon.

"For me, it's about making sure the players know they have the staff's support in guiding them into preparing for the event and hopefully giving them the confidence to go and show what a good set of players they are.

"It is still an early part of their international career, so my job is to try and make it as beneficial as possible."

After facing Sweden, Cooper’s charges take on title holders France before Denmark line-up in the final group match.

If they finish in the top two of the group, then a quarter final spot is up for grabs but Cooper knows they have three tough games to overcome first.

"It's a strong group that we've been drawn in, three nations with history and pedigree and teams that England are familiar with, both at youth level and senior level so there's a little bit of history that goes with the games," he explained.

"It's a group that will offer us a variety of games in terms of styles and oppositions, but that's the challenge that we're looking forward to.

The UEFA European U17 Championship trophy at the draw in Azerbaijan

England Under-17s will face Sweden, France and Denmark in their group stage at the Euro Finals

"We're coming up against really good teams now in the Finals, so it's an exciting one to plan for and the players are in really good spirits and looking forward to getting on with it."

The Young Lions chief took the opportunity to get his group out to Azerbaijan early in order to start their preparations, both on and off the pitch.

And by the time they kick-off on Friday at the Qarabag Stadium, they will have been in UEFA’s most easterly nation for almost a week.

"It's important and a little bit different because normally you only have three or four days of preparation, so we're trying to be quite strategic with our planning for it," he added.

"It's not just the on-pitch stuff but also the off-pitch stuff with team relationships and bonding to create a togetherness among the group between players and staff. 

"So we're trying to make use of the extra time that we've got with them."

Cooper's side beat Turkey during the Elite Qualifying Round in March

Cooper also has the advantage of three experienced coaches to work with during the tournament, where he will be assisted by former Liverpool coach Mike Marsh, ex Aston Villa coach Mark Robson and goalkeeping coach Eric Steele, who has worked with the likes of Manchester United and Derby County over the years.

"The three experienced coaches have a great knowledge of detail at all levels," said Cooper, himself a former Liverpool academy coach.

"They've all worked at youth development and they've all worked in senior football as well so they know where these young players are looking to get to and they also know where they are in that journey as well.

"I think that's really important so we have coach sessions and workshops to talk about certain details in which the three guys here have a wealth of experience and can really relate to top line football."

England kick-off against Sweden on Friday afternoon at midday, with the game being shown live on Eurosport Player.

By Nicholas Veevers Content Manager - FA Owned Channels