U17 Euro ambassador Wayne Rooney passes on his advice to England's class of 2018

After making the draw for the U17 Euro Finals at St. George's Park, England legend and tournament ambassador Wayne Rooney speaks about how his experiences at the 2002 edition helped shape the early stages of his glittering career.

Friday 06 Apr 2018
England will host the 2018 U17 Euro Finals between 4-20 May across the Midlands and South Yorkshire

I can still remember throughout the 2002 U17 Euro tournament, I wore Paul Bracewell’s boots.

It was great, as he was a former Everton player and to wear them and become that year's 'Golden Player' was terrific and getting used to scoring goals for your country at any level is a great moment.

UEFA European U17 Championship
  • The Finals
  • 4-20 May 2018
  • Venues: Burton Albion, Chesterfield FC, Loughborough University, Rotherham United FC, St. George's Park, Walsall FC,
  • Tickets: £4/£2

We got to the semi-finals that year and it was a great experience for all of us, our first exposure to an international tournament.

It’s a time in your career where you are still developing, so you just really enjoy it and take on the different challenges.

I was just about to make the breakthrough at Everton before the tournament started - I was on the bench for the first team in the April but I didn’t get on. 

And I was due to play for Everton against Blackburn when I got picked in the squad for the Euros, so I had to wait a little while longer until the next season.

But looking back it was fantastic and a great time for me to be chosen to play for England at U17 level, just to try and develop yourself as a footballer.

These tournaments can catapult you onto the next level, break into the first team at your club and can really help you on your way to become a superstar. 

There’s things you can show in these games which will make your club manager sit up and think: “He’s got something, I’m going to give him a chance and give him a go.”

I remember playing in an FA Youth Cup game, I did well and David Moyes came up to me after the game and said I’d be in the first team that season.

It was an honour to help make the U17 Euro draw at St. George's Park on Thursday

On the back of playing in that game at Goodison Park, in a big stadium, the coaches saw how I could handle the atmosphere and after that came the U17 Euros.

So that would be my advice to the England lads preparing for this competition - enjoy it, especially with it being on home soil.

Playing in front of home support in England is something all footballers want to do – it certainly was in my case.

It’s great to play against different players and coaches from different backgrounds, it’s all varied in terms of how they play football.

It also helps you see where you are as a player and also try and get into that rhythm of playing tournament football – it’s not easy and the more experienced you are at it, the better.

I’ve played at lower league stadiums before in cup games, I still remember playing at Burton Albion with Manchester United in the FA Cup, and it’s a great atmosphere.

For the young lads to be playing in these environments, it will be massive and some of the biggest crowds they’ve played in front of so far.

And it’s exciting for the fans coming to these tournaments – they can look out for players from their clubs, players from other clubs, spotting which one of those players can go on to become the next superstar and the next big name in football.

I'd played for Everton in the FA Youth Cup in 2002 before going to the U17 Euro in Denmark

They’re at the start of their careers and you can monitor how someone does when they go into the senior team so you never know, you might get someone who comes through and becomes a superstar and the fans can say: “I was there that day, he did well for England in this tournament.”

It’s important that everyone can get behind England. Our young teams have done really well over the last year or so and it’s exciting to see which players are going to succeed and which lads are going to come through.

We have seen in previous years, with the likes of Spain and Germany when their young teams were winning trophies, people were asking questions why England weren’t.

But now we are and you can see that there’s progress being made. Players are getting better, coaches are getting better and that’s only good for English football.

Fans of all ages can watch Europe's future stars on their doorstep at affordable prices as tickets for all games in the Euro Finals are on sale now, starting from just £2 for children and £4 for adults. 

See the stars of tomorrow in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, 4-20 May 2018. Find out more about the venues and ticket details.


By Wayne Rooney Former England captain