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Page last updated at 07:47 GMT, Monday, 31 May 2010 08:47 UK

England U-17s beat Spain to win European Championship

England Under-17 team
Captain Conor Coady (centre) holds the European trophy aloft

By Alistair Magowan

A fine goal by Ipswich's Connor Wickham earned England their first European Under-17 Championship title as they beat Spain 2-1 in Liechtenstein.

Spain took a 22nd-minute lead when a Gerard shot deflected off Liverpool's Andre Wisdom, but Wisdom made amends shortly after by heading home a corner.

The highly-rated Wickham then sealed victory early in the second half, with a sweet finish after a powerful run.

The sought-after win was England's first age-group title since 1993.

That triumph, at the European Under-18 Championship, was earned by a team that included Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Robbie Fowler and Sol Campbell who all went on to play for the senior team.

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And some of the current crop could well feature at the 2018 World Cup, for which England are one of the bidders.

Under-17 manager John Peacock said that England boss Fabio Capello had been keeping a keen eye on the youngsters, asking for DVDs of their matches to be sent to England's World Cup training camp in Austria.

He also said some of the senior team had sent a video message to the U-17 team on the morning of the final, and Peacock was keen to highlight the victory as proof of improved standards in English football.

"The English game gets criticism sometimes that we don't produce enough good quality players so it is nice to show that things are working well at this level," he told BBC Sport.

"There are no guarantees that this group will go and achieve what the likes of Scholes, Neville and Campbell did but they have every chance. We always knew this group had the potential to do very well.

"The last time a group came through was in 2003 when we reached the semi-finals only to be beaten by Portugal. That team had Aaron Lennon, James Milner and Tom Huddlestone so recent history shows it can be done."

Wickham, who scored six times for Roy Keane's Ipswich team last season and is reportedly attracting the attentions of a number of Premier League clubs, should have put the result beyond doubt not long after his strike.

The 6ft 3in striker latched onto a clearance from captain Conor Coady, of Liverpool, before skewing his effort wide with the outside of his right foot after beating the last covering defender.

To win the European title is a testament to all the good development work that is going on in the clubs

England U-17 boss John Peacock

The miss ensured that England endured a tense finish, with Barcelona winger Gerard firing wide and Real Madrid's Jese Rodriguez forcing a fine save from England goalkeeper Jack Butland.

Wisdom also breathed a huge sigh of relief when his attempted clearance hit team-mate Luke Garbutt before rebounding off the post for a corner.

"I'm absolutely delighted but I'm more happy for the 18 players who have all made a contribution during the tournament," added Peacock.

"It is also nice that we beat Spain in the final as they are often seen as the benchmark for football development across the age groups. They win European and World titles on a regular basis.

"We have been there or thereabouts with our U17s and U19s - Spain beat us 1-0 in the final three years ago - but it is nice to finally win one. Hopefully it is the start of something and we can win many more."

Peacock also praised the much-maligned Premier League and Football League Academies which have been criticised for diluting talent and importing players at a young age from overseas countries.

"To win the European title is a testament to all the good development work that is going on in the clubs," he said.

"We know there is good work going on in the Academies and all we do is pick up on that good work. The clubs want to go on from where they are and they can feel proud of the victory tonight too."

FA director of football development Trevor Brooking travelled to Liechtenstein to watch the final.

"I thought our two central defenders were outstanding," said the former England and West Ham midfielder.

"Nat [Nathaniel Chalobah] is still only 15-and-a-half and he was playing against players that are nearly two whole years older than him. He was excellent.

"Connor Wickham put in another good performance up top, getting a great winner, to add to his two in the semi-final, but, more than anything it was a great team performance and you can see this group have got a great team spirit."


ENGLAND UNDER-17 SQUAD PROFILES Jack Butland (Birmingham City) Position: Goalkeeper Age: 17 Caps: 9. Voted Birmingham's young player of the season for 2009/10.

Bruno Pilatos (Middlesbrough) Defender Age: 17 Caps: 20. Born in Angola. Named substitute for first time for Boro's game against Swansea on 23 January.

Luke Garbutt (Everton) Defender Age: 17 Caps: 24. Joined Everton from Leeds United in the summer of 2009 for reported £200,000.

Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea) Defender Age: 15 Caps: 17. Singled out for praise by FA Director of Football Development Sir Trevor Brooking. Will only turn 16 in December.

Andre Wisdom (Liverpool) Defender Age: 17 Caps: 17. Powerful, pacey centre-back who helped Liverpool reach the FA Youth Cup final last season.

Conor Coady (Liverpool) Midfielder Age: 17 Caps: 17. Captain for both his country and club (under 18 side). Tough-tackling midfielder in mould of club-mate Steven Gerrard.

William Keane (Manchester United) Midfielder Age: 17 Caps: 15. Creative midfielder who was part of United's Milk Cup-winning squad in summer 2009. Twin brother Michael is also on United's books.

Joshua McEachran (Chelsea) Midfielder Age: 17 Caps: 12. Stand out player of Chelsea's 2010 FA Youth Cup victory. Has travelled with the Blues first team this season.

Ross Barkley (Everton) Midfielder Age: 16 Caps: 7. Goal-scoring midfielder looking to follow in the footsteps of Jack Rodwell at Goodison. Has also played up front for Everton's youth side.

Benik Afobe (Arsenal) Forward Age: 17 Caps: 23. Made his debut for Arsenal reserves as a 16-year-old. Scored 11 goals in 13 appearances for the Gunners under 18s.

Connor Wickham (Ipswich) Forward Age: 17 Caps: 10. Star striker, often compared to Wayne Rooney, who is gaining rave reviews and much attention from Premier League scouts for his displays for Ipswich, for whom he has scored six goals in 10 starts this season.

Samuel Johnstone (Manchester United) Goalkeeper Age: 17 Caps: 14. Preston-born keeper who is tall, athletic and very agile. Regularly involved with England since his U16s debut, against Scotland, in November 2008.

Ben Gibson (Middlesbrough) Defender Age: 17 Caps: 5. Left-sided defender who has overcome growth-related injury problems this season to establish himself in the Boro academy side.

Tom Thorpe (Manchester United) Defender Age: 17 Caps: 7. Tall, athletic centre-back who has also played right-back. Composed on the ball and comfortable coming forward.

George Thorne (West Brom) Midfielder Age: 17 Caps: 13. Central midfielder who became Albion's youngest league debutant in 49 years when making his debut from the bench in the Baggies' 4-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday on 28 November.

Luke Williams (Middlesbrough) Midfielder Age: 16 Caps: 5. Attacking midfielder of forward. Became the youngest player to represent Boro since Tom Murray in 1905 via a substitute appearance against Barnsley on 28 November.

Robert Hall (West Ham) Forward Age: 16 Caps: 16. Lightning-quick left-footed winger or forward who has scored six goals in 15 starts for West Ham's academy side this season.

Saido Berahino (West Brom) Forward Age: 16 Caps: 12. Born and brought up in war-torn Burundi, but fled the country to join his mother, who was seeking asylum in England, five years ago. The prolific goalscorer, who broke into the Baggies reserve side last season, only spoke French when he first arrived in this country.



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see also
Wickham wins young player award
17 May 10 |  Ipswich
Keane praises late Wickham strike
13 Mar 10 |  Ipswich
Wickham close to senior call-up
12 Dec 08 |  Ipswich
Upson talks youth football
13 Feb 09 |  England
Grant to support youth football
13 Jul 08 |  Kent


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