England’s next generation of senior internationals at the world’s oldest professional football stadium.
The significance of the occasion, both in a sporting and cultural sense, was not lost on Aidy Boothroyd as he prepared for this evening’s Euro 2019 qualifier against Ukraine at Bramall Lane. (Kick-off 6pm).
“We try and bring our teams around the country,” the under-21’s manager explained last night. “I’ve been banging on about getting a game in Yorkshire for a little while now. We were at Rotherham not so long ago, since I’ve been at the FA we’ve played at Plymouth, Middlesbrough, and I think it’s important that the general public get to see what it is that’s coming through.”
With former Sheffield United striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin set to feature, there will be plenty of local interest when the Young Lions meet Oleksandr Holovko’s side in a match which could see them take another huge step towards reaching next year’s finals in Italy and San Marino. Thanks to the FA’s improved strategic planning, the fixture also provides an opportunity to watch other players being groomed for selection at the 2022 World Cup and beyond.
“We’ve got a very brave England manager that’s not afraid to play young players and I think we’re all very lucky to be in a system that is organised, has a plan and that we keep pushing through,” Boothroyd, paying tribute to Gareth Southgate, said. “Since I’ve joined, I’ve seen in the last four years under Dan Ashworth’s technical directorship a real feel-good factor in the place. It’s been invested in, the development teams by the board.
“At the top you’ve got a guy (Southgate) that’s been there and done it all. With his humility, we all want to make sure we give him the best we can so that he can pick our players and hopefully we can go on to bigger and better things with the seniors.”
Calvert-Lewin, aged 21, made 12 appearances for United before being signed by Everton last season. A lifelong supporter of Chris Wilder’s team, he revealed his regret at never scoring in front of The Kop during a round of television interviews yesterday.
Boothroyd hinted he will be given a chance to finally fulfil that ambition after impressing against Romania on Saturday.
“He was excellent when he came off the bench the other night and was unlucky not to get a couple of goals,” Boothroyd, reflecting on Saturday’s 2-1 victory at Molineux, said. “If he starts he’s got a good chance of doing that. Dom’s a really good character. He’s another one that is not bothered about the trappings of success, he just wants to be a successful footballer. His attitude is infectious.”
England could move eight points clear at the top of Group Four if they beat the visitors from Eastern Europe.
“They’re a good side,” Boothroyd said. “They’re a very attacking team, they’re really aggressive and never know when they’re beaten.”