Football Association technical director Les Reed believes England’s youngsters need to learn from the over-confidence that contributed to the under-21s’ torrid summer.
Expectations were high as the Young Lions looked to win the Under-21 European Championship on the back of the country’s triumphs at the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups in 2017.
Yet Aidy Boothroyd’s talent-filled side crashed out after managing just one point – a tournament England boss Gareth Southgate, who was in Italy, said acted as a reminder to the senior squad that they “must always have humility”.
Reed, who succeeded Dan Ashworth as FA technical director in February, was another in attendance and echoed the England manager’s sentiments.
“I think what is more important is that we accept that that wasn’t an acceptable performance from the squad and why?” the former Southampton vice-chairman of football said.
“So, was it Aidy? No, it wasn’t. It was a number of things that collaborate to end up with that. And they are things we need to identify so we can put them right. There’s a number of things.
“That year group is a tough year group, particularly when half of them had already won a World Cup and then a number of them were starting to become household names and getting Premier League appearances and being talked up.
“Inevitably when that happens they get into the realms of talking about new contracts and negotiations at their clubs.
“And I think when you want to win tournaments, you need to be confident. You need to have a bit of a swagger.
“But it doesn’t need to border on the arrogance and I think getting that balance right, I didn’t think we achieved that completely.
“The boys themselves, we had a lot of feedback from then. They hanged themselves and said they under-performed, it wasn’t Aidy.
“That’s all well and good when you’ve under-performed and it’s all over. The question now is what you’re going to do about that individually, as a player.
“Now the other side of it is that two or three of them are in Gareth’s thoughts. Mason Mount has come through and is now in the squad.
“It’s about turning what were negatives into positives.”
Asked why the balance was not correct, he said: “I think what it was, I probably didn’t phrase that right, because we had a good squad and they had been successful on the pathway, I think it was probably over-confidence.
“It was a mental thing in believing they were going to win the tournament and probably being over-confident and then actually realising in game play that there is another team out there and it’s not a walkover.
“A lot of the goals conceded were individual errors; a loss of concentration. But it contributed to errors in judgement on the pitch.”
James Maddison, Mount and Aaron Wan-Bissaka stepped up from the under-21s to the senior squad for England’s upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers, although the latter has since pulled out with a back issue.
The trio have benefitted from Southgate’s trust in youth and the transformation of development pathways within the FA – something Reed hopes to see the continuation of in his role as technical director.
“I’d like to think it manifests itself in success on the pitch with the teams, particularly at the senior level,” he said.
“At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about, about England winning at the top level. We’ve got high standards.
“We need to set stretched targets so I’d like to think that by the time I’ve gone, we will have had a really good go at winning something.”
With the current crop of up-and-coming talent, the Three Lions do seem to stand a chance under standard-bearer Southgate.
“What Gareth has brought is a lot more understanding and acceptance of responsibility towards the whole pathway and therefore is a real good leader to have at the top,” Reed said.
“And therefore what’s important for us is to try through our coach education programmes and everything else to develop that profile with future English qualified coaches. And therefore increase the pool of potential successors when and if Gareth moves on.
“But also when and if we have a turnover of coaches down the pathway anyway.
“So, what Gareth has done is change that profile and that’s a successful profile. It works well for the whole development programme.
“And that makes what he does very important to the way we develop in the long term.”
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