England MU17 players told ‘let’s leave our mark individually and collectively’ at the Under-17 EURO
England MU17 head coach Ryan Garry previews the UEFA Under-17 Championship in Hungary
Ryan Garry has called on the England MU17 players to ‘leave our mark individually and collectively’ during the UEFA Under-17 Championship whilst stressing the important balance the coaches need to strike between success and player development.
England men’s under-17s will begin the 16-team tournament on Thursday against Croatia, with kick-off at 7pm and the games being shown live on the BBC red button, iPlayer and website.
Garry named his 21-player England MU17 squad on Wednesday morning and is set to lead a national team into a major tournament for the first time.
He said: “It's a huge honour and privilege to be head coach going into the tournament. You feel a huge responsibility and energy in trying to transmit a good learning environment that, ultimately, is designed to develop young men for performance environments.
“It's going to be a great opportunity for the players. There have been some big European and English players who have played in these tournaments in the past so I've said to the boys, 'Well done for qualifying, but let's not see it as we're just pleased to be here. Let's make sure we leave our mark, individually and collectively, as the players and staff of England’.”
England MU17s won the Under-17 EURO in 2010 and 2014, plus lifted the Under-17 World Cup in 2017, when the squad included the likes of Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Marc Guéhi, Conor Gallagher and Morgan Gibbs-White.
The tournament proved to be great preparation for many of the players as they went on to become regulars for Premier League clubs and England senior internationals.
Garry is hoping the current crop will follow suit but stressed there is a balance to be had, with the England MU17 squad largely consisting of under-17 players and several under-16s, some of whom will be sitting their GCSEs during the tournament in Hungary.
"There are a few things [we want to achieve from the tournament] really,” the head coach said.
“I think, first off, our role is developers of young people. We want them to have a positive tournament experience. That's the first thing.
“I think secondly, obviously when working with a development age group team at the FA, our role and responsibility is towards the pathway and making sure that our players are ready for hopefully future senior tournaments.
“So we would be looking to make sure we help them understand how to perform and prepare and ultimately manage a tournament, where hopefully one day they're going to be playing in one for the seniors. That's the ultimate aim.
“Now, for some, that can be a long way off. For some, that might happen in a few years' time. But we've got to ideally cater for both. It's part of the education for a player in a pathway—how to manage the expectancy of international football at a European Championship.
“So it will be a great experience, hopefully, for all the players."
He continued: “Obviously, we are working with the adolescent brain and the players we're working with are not finished yet on their journey.
“And honestly, the development cycle never stops. It doesn't matter if you're a senior player or an under-15, ultimately, we are preparing young men to be able to perform at tournaments with a view of winning it.
“It would be naive of us not to state our intent, which is obviously we're hoping to go far in the tournament because the way that we see it, the more games that we play in competitive environments, competitive tournaments, the better for these young men.
"Obviously, that gives them something to reference when they're hopefully playing for older England age groups but also when they go back to their club, which is another big part of our role—to give them something that they don't experience at the club every Saturday, whether they're playing for the Under-18s, Under-16s, Under-21s or senior team.
“It's a very unique experience when you come to one of these tournaments."
Garry knows the importance of making the most of age-group tournaments.
The former Arsenal and Bournemouth defender was part of the England MU18 team which exited the Under-18 EURO at the group stage.
But whilst the likes of Glen Johnson, Jermaine Jenas, Dean Ashton and Carlton Cole went on to become senior internationals and have lengthy careers, Garry’s time as a professional footballer was cut short by injury.
"It's interesting now looking back at it as a coach, a coach who has experienced the ups and downs of the game,” Garry said.
“I was a professional for ten years; I had to retire early, and I suppose sometimes you don't take in the importance of reflecting on what you're doing when you're a young player.
“I look back on that tournament with a real sense of it being a really good learning moment for me, in terms of playing against future international players who won the World Cup with Germany, for instance, or players that went on to achieve for our England teams.
“There were a few players that went on and played for the seniors, and I'm sure that experience of the Under-18 EURO would have helped them, competing in a tournament where, ultimately, you are looking to test yourselves as a team but also as an individual."
See the MU17 squad