STEVE COOPER insists England’s U17 World Cup winners are at the expected level of development — but admits he hoped to see more first-team opportunities.
Today marks 500 days since the Young Lions completed a remarkable comeback against Spain to lift the trophy in India.
England Under-17s boss Steve Cooper believes the squad is at a normal level of development[/caption]
And while the likes of Jadon Sancho and Morgan Gibbs-White have become regulars for their clubs, nine members of that victorious squad are yet to make an appearance for their first-team.
Cooper, 39, told SunSport: “Whether they’ve played for England and won World Cups or not, it’s just youth development.
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“They are at a stage now where they may not be ready for first-team football, so why put them in?
“There might be other cases where players are ready and they’re just waiting for an opportunity that hasn’t come their way.
“And then you get the other scenario where players have been given that opportunity and they’ve done well.”
But while Cooper says the group cannot be judged on appearances, he also stressed the long-term aim remains far away.
Cooper said: “It can’t be a criticism but it can’t be a celebration either because they are still very much in the development stages.
“The World Cup win was fantastic but the big aim for the teams is to win the World Cup at senior level.
“So our job is always about getting individuals to a stage that when Gareth [Southgate] selects them they’ve got as much in the locker as possible to give them the opportunity to play at senior level.
“We’re a development programme and the idea is that they when they come out that programme, whether at the 21s or a little earlier, like Jadon or Joe Gomez or Dele Alli, you just want them to be as best prepared as possible to play well for the senior team.”
Yet, when England returned from India in 2017, Cooper thought the focus may see his players picked at club level.
“That’s always the hope,” he said.
“We’d just played on the biggest stage possible at that part of the journey, and the way we’d won the tournament and the way we played and performed, we really did come through the toughest group.
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“If you look at the quarters, semi and final, you’ve got USA, who’re full of players we’ll get to know in the future, and Brazil and Spain who speak for themselves.
“To think we score four goals, three goals and then five goals in those three games, and play the way we did, you can only be hopeful and optimistic that these players can go on and fulfil potential.”