Six months into his time as England Under-19 coach, Aidy Boothroyd speaks to UEFA.com about their elite round trip to Spain and the FA's youth development plans.
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Six months on from his appointment as England Under-19 coach, Aidy Boothroyd is aiming to steer his team past holders Spain into the 2016 European finals.
Known as one of England's promising young managers from taking Watford into the Premier League in 2006, Boothroyd had worked purely at club level until he joined the Football Association (FA) in February 2014.
Having led the U20s, he became U19 coach in July. Boothroyd began with a 3-2 friendly victory away to UEFA European U19 Championship hosts Germany in September and negotiated qualifying round Group 4 unbeaten. Many of his squad won the U17 title in 2014.
As England prepare to travel to Seville in March to play Georgia, Greece and Spain in elite round Group 1, Boothroyd spoke to UEFA.com about their task, his experience as national coach and the FA's youth development philosophy.
UEFA.com: What do you think of your elite round group?
Adie Boothroyd: We play Spain, Georgia and Greece in Seville and it's very difficult, but we embrace challenges and look forward to it. We just hope we get a little bit of luck and we work hard and you never know.
We haven't played Spain yet with our particular age group, the [players born in] 1997, so it'll be great experience going there. Greece are a good team, Georgia are a good team too. We always respect all our opponents, but at the same time anybody can beat anybody so I hope we get that little bit of luck on the day.
UEFA.com: How have you enjoyed being a national coach?
Boothroyd: It's been really good. It's been tremendous for me to work in international football and work with and against some of the best players in Europe – it's been excellent. It was a good programme [U20], a global programme [in the Toulon Tournament], and now this one is focusing on competitive European Championships. I'm really enjoying it and really looking forward to it.
UEFA.com: Explain to us the FA's 'England DNA' project and your role in it?
Boothroyd: In a professional development phase it's about two things. One, getting players through to Gareth [Southgate] at the U21s and then the senior team, and two it's about learning to win and understanding how competitive it is out there. So for our boys to go away and play against Spain and the other teams they've played against away from home gives them experiences they are going to need at senior level. So we want to arm them for the future, but if at the same time we can pick up good performances individually and collectively, then we do our job.
UEFA.com: Does your position as a former club manager help your relationship with the managers of your players at club level?
Boothroyd: It does help that I've got a relationship and that we as a federation have got a relationship with all our managers and all our contemporaries at clubs. We are working together to develop the player. It's definitely a club and country rather than a club v country: we want to work together with them. We totally respect that the players are the clubs' players and we want to add something they can't get at club level.
UEFA.com: England have been successful at U17 level in recent years but that has not always been maintained as they have moved up the age groups – how can you help put that right?
Boothroyd: We are in a situation where we have done well at the younger levels, but we want to be able to transfer that up into the highest age development teams and hopefully into the senior teams. And we are all working together to do that.
We have got a fantastic facility [at St George's Park]. Dan Ashworth's now been in charge for two years as technical director. There's been a lot of changes in a short space of time.
We've got the facility, we've got the people and now it's about hard work. Those three things will certainly help and the buy-in from the other stakeholders, the clubs, makes a big difference to us.
UEFA.com: Although it is not up to you where your players play at club level, would you encourage them to be loaned out to lower-division sides if they are unable to break into their Premier League first XIs?
Boothrod: We've got to be very careful. They are the club's players and we want to do our little bit at international level to give them the skill set. All the experiences help players. If they can get straight into the first teams, that's great. If they can go out on loan to other clubs, that's great as well. We've got to rely on, find out and speak to other clubs to find out what they are doing with international players so we can keep an eye on them as well and see how they progress.