Roy Hodgson expresses sympathy for Aidy Boothroyd after Young Lions’ Euros exit

George Sessions, PA
·4-min read

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson has sympathy for England Under-21s boss Aidy Boothroyd after the Young Lions suffered an early exit at Euro 2021.

A goal from Eagles playmaker Ebere Eze was not enough as Boothroyd’s side were denied a place in the second phase of the tournament this summer due to goal difference despite a 2-1 win over Croatia in Koper.

Hodgson had one game in charge of the Under-21s back in 2013 during his spell as manager of the national team and a debate then, which continues in the present, was the use of the best young talent in the country.

Boothroyd bemoaned his role “the utterly impossible job” given the likes of Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Mason Mount were with Gareth Southgate’s senior group during this international break, and the Palace boss understands his frustration.

Speaking ahead of Monday’s trip to Everton, Hodgson said: “If you are the Under-21 manager, you would like to be in a situation where any player who can represent England and is under 21, you would like to use.

“I remember those arguments even going back to my Finland and Switzerland days, it is nothing new. It’s a question of perception.

“It’s strange for the Under-21s because they play their qualifying games pretty much under the radar but then the tournament comes around and it starts to get interesting, but it’s not always so easy for the coach at that time.

“Of course I have sympathy for him. Unfortunately you can’t say the job is impossible because no job is actually impossible but I think what he is trying to say is the expectations are not as realistic as perhaps they should be.

“That’s again nothing new and whenever you take a job as an English national coach at any level, you have to accept sometimes the scrutiny and expectations won’t always be as fair and as just as you would like.”

A regular debate between the England and Under-21 manager has been whether the age groups winning tournaments can translate into success for the senior set-up.

Back in 2015, Southgate saw his Under-21 team – which contained the likes of John Stones, Jesse Lingard and Harry Kane – finish bottom of their Euros group and three years later the aforementioned trio helped the Three Lions reach the World Cup semi-finals in Russia.

“I am far from convinced that having teams that win at junior level means you will have a team that wins at senior level unless of course all the players continue to come through,” Hodgson added.

“Now that isn’t always the case and the very best ones will jump over the Under-21s, always. The Fodens, (Raheem) Sterlings, (Marcus) Rashfords and in my time I could name five or six who went straight into the first-team squad having hardly played an Under-21 game.

“Maybe there needs to be a continued debate about what do we want from the Under-21s?

“And if the answer is we are fed up not actually winning the tournaments we take part in, then the FA will have to make a decision to say in the future we have got to give the coach at the time the very best players.

“But I am afraid if I was still the England national team manager, I would say ‘no, I want the best players in my team’.”

Eze is set to join up with the Palace squad on Friday ahead of preparations for Monday’s trip to Goodison Park.

Hodgson conceded he will have to try and lift the spirits of the attacker but it will not be with a hug.

“I will have to try and cheer Eze up when he gets back because he will be bitterly disappointed to have what looked like a very good result, which would qualify them for the quarter-finals, snatched away,” the 73-year-old said.

“It would be nice but I don’t think managers of my age cuddling players is a great idea at any time, certainly not ideal in this coronavirus pandemic.

“I am pretty certain I would find my way into the headlines for cuddling a player at a time when I am supposedly being required to stay away from everybody but I am pleased I’m vaccinated so I feel quite comfortable these days.”