John Peacock tells UEFA.com about England's "tough group" and his satisfaction at having played a role in Danny Welbeck and Ross Barkley's development.
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England will aim to complete a hat-trick of UEFA European Under-17 Championship titles in Bulgaria next month when they travel to the first edition of these finals since 2002 to feature 16 teams.
Coach John Peacock oversaw both of England's previous U17 triumphs, in Liechtenstein in 2010 and 12 months ago in Malta. After the draw in Pomorie, the long-serving manager took time out to speak to UEFA.com about the tough group his side must negotiate, his pride at seeing erstwhile charges make the step up to senior international level and why it is not all about football for players at these tournaments.
On a section featuring the Republic of Ireland, Italy and 2014 runners-up the Netherlands ...
It's a tough group. When you're in the final stage of a European Championship it can always work out that way: at the end of the day, you've just got to try and beat everyone in front of you. Last year was great – we've all got great memories of it – but this is a new age group. They did very well in the qualifying stage back in October and then in the elite round, so we've just got to try and keep that run going.
On some of his former players becoming senior internationals …
I'm very proud. That's ultimately the end of what our process is all about. We've got to get to the finals of these tournaments as often as we can. We've a good record over past ten, 12 years and many of them have come through and become senior internationals. The likes of [Ross] Barkley, [Jack] Butland and [Danny] Welbeck were all at St George's Park with the seniors when we were playing in the elite round, so it was nice to catch up with a few of them, bringing back some fond memories.
I'm very privileged [to have played a role in their careers] and I'm sure they all have great memories of taking part in elite rounds or in European Championships. It gave them the experience they needed and it's now standing them in good stead for the senior international environment. Let's hope we can do the same with this group.
On the right ingredients for good squad morale …
We've found a very good balance over the years and that's why we've been so successful. It's about getting the right environment and being professional first and foremost. They've all been very professional and focused on what we're here for, but they're still young players – they need time out occasionally, need to relax a little, and getting that right is key to a successful tournament.
On the importance of youth championships in players' development …
Tournaments like this are an enormous challenge, so you have to try and make sure young players are exposed to them as often as possible. We have had a lot of good friendlies over the course of the year – we've played the Dutch and Italy – but the acid test is a competition and putting them in that environment is key, as there is that added pressure.