There are many ways to skin a cat – or garner success from a UEFA European Under-17 Championship, according to England manager Steve Cooper.
More than six months after he guided the England Under-17s to an historic World Cup triumph in India, Cooper finds himself in charge of the next wave of age group talent, who will be the host nation as the continent’s best youngsters travel to these shores next month.
Kicking off on May 4, the latest crop of Young Lions will be out to build on the legacy laid down by the likes of Phil Foden, Rhian Brewster and Angel Gomes but chief Cooper doesn’t believe that claiming more silverware is a necessity for the next generation.
“I think you can win in lots of ways,” said the England boss, whose charges face Israel, Italy and Switzerland in Group A.
“Obviously, we want to be as successful as we can in the tournament and go as far as we can but we also want to do it in a way that is building for the future.
“I think it’s the way we play, the way we behave, the work ethic that we show. However far we get in the tournament, there’ll be something to learn that will help us for the next time.
“We can’t take our eye off the future. The main objective is to build a successful winning England team at senior level and we’ll always be working towards that but if we can win tournaments along the way, then great.
“At the same time, if we don’t, it will still be a good learning experience.
“When the time comes, we’ll be in a good place and ready to deliver when it counts, and that will be the first game against Israel.”
The Proact Stadium in Chesterfield, St George’s Park in Burton and Rotherham’s New York Stadium – also the venue for the final on May 20 – are just some of the venues that will host some of the world’s most talented teenagers in the coming weeks.
While the experience of an international tournament will undoubtedly be unforgettable for any up and coming player, Cooper also wants his players to make the most of competing in front of a home crowd, using England fans’ support as the wind beneath their wings.
“We’ve really been talking to the players about getting the crowd on side and what they'll want to see,” said the Young Lions manager.
“They want to see a team with a real identity that represents what they believe an England team should stand for.
“We want to make the most of being at home and if we can get good crowds through the gates, we'll make sure we represent them in the best way possible.
“That can't be a pressure. That's something that they've got to enjoy and embrace.
“They've got to live for the moment because the further they get on the international stage, that only increases.
“If you think about right at the end – playing for the senior national team – the pressure and the scrutiny is at a maximum, so this is a really important step towards that.”
See the stars of tomorrow in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, 4-20 May 2018. Visit www.TheFA.com/U17Euro for tickets and further information.