England senior coach Gareth Southgate speaks to UEFA.com about #U17EURO and how he works with the host nation's successful youth teams.
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The UEFA European Under-17 Championship kicked off on Friday in England with the hosts aiming to complete a unique grand slam of international trophies.
Last year, England became only the second nation after Brazil in 2003 to win both the FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cups and also picked up the U19 EURO. They were only denied the U17 title in the final by a last-gasp Spain equaliser and penalty shoot-out reverse, but on 20 May England will hope to become the first nation ever to simultaneously hold all four European and world men's youth titles.
Hoping that this junior success will help England end their long wait for a second major title is senior national coach Gareth Southgate, who was present for the U17 EURO draw in April at St George's Park, the Football Association (FA) training centre and base for these finals. He spoke to UEFA.com about the tournament and how the senior team are behind, and benefit from, their youth sides.
UEFA.com: How closely to you follow the other England national teams?
Gareth Southgate: We work together as a team of national coaches so everybody wanted to see the draw that Steve [Cooper, England U17 coach] and the team were going to get. There's additional excitement because we're hosting the tournament as well. We work very closely, we want our pathway to be joined up. Whenever our teams are playing, messages fly around between all the coaches wishing each other good luck and getting updates on all of the games. We are a very tight coaching team.
UEFA.com: How important is this tournament to you as senior England manager?
Southgate: It is hugely important. Before I was senior manager, I was head of national teams as well as U21 head coach so it's been great to see the journey we've gone on as a group of coaches, and for us to have some success last year is a huge boost to everybody. It builds expectation, which is important, because players now coming in feel they have to replicate what's happened before, but it also builds belief, and belief is a thing we need in our senior team. The more of our young players that come through having experienced success can only help us at senior level.
UEFA.com: What are the benefits to a young player in a final tournament like this?
Southgate: There is a physical challenge but also a psychological challenge and the social part of being together as a team and riding through the microscope of a tournament and the highs and lows you always have as a team. So the more you experience that, the better prepared you are for senior tournament level.
UEFA.com: The tournament is based at England's training centre, St George's Park. How has it helped your youth teams to be able to share a base with the senior teams since it was opened?
Southgate: There are a few parts to that. One is that our young players get used to coming here, so then the step to the senior team is comfortable. The second part is I can dip in and watch a team train, so you can get to know the players much better. And the other part is that as a group of coaches we are together more. We're spending more time here working, so the sharing of ideas and the speed at which we can progress is increased.
UEFA.com: How does it also help you national coaches to all be based at the same place?
Southgate: Sharing of experiences after any tournament. Say Steve with the U17s, after a tournament he will come in and debrief to all of us and, as senior head coach, you can learn things for senior level that our youth teams have been through. And also we want to know who our good players are that are coming through and the tactical problems they've had to solve.
UEFA.com: When you are together as a senior squad, do you take time to follow the other England teams that might be playing at the same time?
Southgate: We're fortunate that a lot of the games are televised now. But we are messaging each other, we get calls when we can to update and when the games are on we watch them. There are some nice shots of our senior team watching the U20s in their [World Cup] final last year, so there's that genuine feeling of a club environment which we want to create.