Euro Football

Boothroyd has ‘best’ England U21 squad – but warns its knockout from start of Euros

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Aidy Boothroyd reckons England are his best U21 squad yet – but warned their Euro campaign is “knockout football”.

England kick-off their tournament against France on Tuesday night looking to go one better than two years ago, when they lost on penalties to Germany in the semi final in Poland.

Boothroyd says England have learned from that experience, and improved after qualifying for the last six finals. They must win their Group C, including Romania and Croatia, to guarantee progress to the last four.

He said: “This is going to be one of the best U21 tournaments there’s ever been because of the quality of the teams in the tournament. As coaches and players we want to perform and be up against the best to push ourselves.

Aidy Boothroyd hope to guide England to a first Euro U21 title since 1984
(Image: Martin Rickett/PA Wire)

“I think this is a better squad. It’s got more depth. We will be looking to make sure we don’t take anyone lightly and perform ourselves.

“It is knock-out football from day one. You don’t get the luxury of having a game to just assess things. You are at it from the start.

“You know teams are going to need to attack to win the groups or claim the best runners-up spot. How does that change what we do? It doesn’t really because we look to play and win every single game. It isn’t going to be as easy as just saying that but we are looking to win the game.

Jake Clarke-Salter will skipper England U21s in Italy
(Image: Nathan Stirk)

“They players are irritable. They want to get going. You can see the excitement. It is all about time passing so we can get on with it.”

Boothroyd named Jake Clarke-Salter as his skipper, and the Chelsea kid says he will take a lead from his hero John Terry.

Clarke-Salter said: “I am a Chelsea player and John Terry is my idol and I look up to him a lot.

“I came through the academy and he gave me a lot of advice, that is the main factor for me personally.

“I was honoured to be picked to captain this very talented side. We have got a good bond and known each other for years, We are good friends and love playing together. It will be tough and competitive game against France.”

Boothroyd added: “Jake is a good and brave footballer, one of his biggest characteristics is his humility. We have big hitters and personalities but Jake is a doer, He has everyone’s respect. When he speaks everyone listens.”

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