FOR England’s youth teams, 2017 could hardly have been more successful, winning three of four major finals and reaching the semi-finals of the U21 European Championship.
The Young Lions achieved something no nation had done since Brazil in 2003 in winning the U-17 and U-20 World Cups in the same year and added the U-19 European Championship to complete a majestic hat-trick.
One tournament that eluded England’s grasp was the U-17 European Championship, conceding a stoppage time goal against Spain and going on to lose on penalties.
But fresh from their World Cup triumph in October, the Young Lions have the chance to set the record straight in May, and on home soil too.
England is set to host the U-17 Euros from 4-20 May, with six host venues raring to go: Burton Albion, Chesterfield, Loughborough University, Rotherham United, St. George’s Park and Walsall.
England’s 2017 youth team success began with the U-17 Euros – could it happen again in 2018?
The glorious summer of youth football success got off to a familiar start for England, with a defeat on penalties, but Jadon Sancho was named best player of the tournament, something that would prove to be the catalyst for his move to Borussia Dortmund for £8m.
The U-20 team tasted success at the Toulon Tournament in June before heading to South Korea for the World Cup.
They beat the Ivory Coast on penalties in Toulon, with Leicester City’s Harvey Barnes and Sheffield Wednesday’s George Hirst finishing as joint top scorers with four goals apiece.
In South Korea, it was Liverpool’s Dominic Solanke who took home the top award, winning player of the tournament, while Freddie Woodman, who saved a penalty in the final, was recognised as best goalkeeper.
Beginning with a confident 3-0 win over Argentina and finishing with wins over Italy and Venezuela, England lifted the trophy in style, winning all their games in 90 minutes, bar a group stage draw with Guinea.
That kind of youth team success was already a fantastic achievement, but England weren’t done yet.
A heart-breaking defeat in the U-21 European Championship on penalties to Germany saw England crash out at the semi-final stage at the end of June.
But just two weeks later, England were lifting their second international trophy of the year, this time the U-19 European Championship.
England cruised through to the knockout stages, winning all three games, including a 4-1 drubbing of Germany, in which Fulham starlet Ryan Sessegnon helped himself to two goals.
Manchester City academy player Lukas Nmecha was the hero in the semi-final as his 93rd minute winner saw off the Czech Republic, and he grabbed the winner in the final too, as England beat Portugal 2-1.
Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount, now on loan at Dutch side Vitesse was named player of the tournament.
The final jewel in England’s 2017 youth football crown was the U-17 World Cup, held in India in October, for the manner of victory if nothing else.
Two goals down in the final, England produced a rousing comeback to win 5-2, with player of the tournament Phil Foden scoring twice as the Young Lions roared to victory.
England scored 23 goals in seven games, Rhian Brewster top scoring with eight and stormed past the USA, Brazil and Spain on their way to a memorable victory.
The precedent has been set by the young guns – can the senior team match it in 2018?
See the stars of tomorrow in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, 4-20 May 2018. Visit www.TheFA.com/U17Euro for tickets and further information.