Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Aidy Boothroyd parts company with England Under-21s

Posted on 16 April 2021 by Charlie Gordon

Aidy Boothroyd departs after joining in 2016 [credit: Sven Mandel]
As of this morning, Aidy Boothroyd has left England Under-21s with immediate effect after a hugely disappointing group stage exit at the 2021 European Championships.

The 50-year-old’s contract with the FA was due to expire this summer, but seemingly the two parties decided that it would be beneficial for all to call time early on his five year stint in the dugout.

After joining in 2016, Boothroyd led his youngsters to a European semi-final just one year later. His two subsequent Euros in 2019 and 2021 saw consecutive group stage exits, an all-too-familiar story having failed to progress from the groups in five of the past six tournaments.

Boothroyd said: “While we didn’t finish in the way we wanted, I’m very proud to have been able to work so closely with players who I know will go on to have remarkable international careers and to have experienced some very special moments with them over the years.

“In every single get-together they embraced our unique challenge of rightly prioritising the needs of the senior team while ensuring we gave our all to try and get a positive performance and result.”

This unique challenge of supplying the senior team is what led Boothroyd himself to label his job as ‘utterly impossible’ earlier this year.

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Indeed, supremely talented players like Jude Bellingham, Reece James, Phil Foden and Mason Mount would have all been eligible for his side’s Euro campaign in March. Instead, all are in senior team contention, but with Premier League regulars like Emile Smith-Rowe, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Curtis Jones and Ben Godfrey all in the side, crashing out so early was a striking underachievement.

After half a decade in the job, Boothroyd is now thought to be keen on a return to club management. He made his name as a young Watford manager back in the mid-2000s, although it remains to be seen how far his stock has fallen based on recent disappointments.

Unsurprisingly, attention has already turned towards who will be ushered into a hot-seat which has nurtured many promising managers over the years.

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Justin Cochrane is the odds on favourite. The 39-year-old is unlikely to be a name on many people’s radar, but after an early playing retirement the former Crewe Alexandra centre-back began the familiar route of an apprenticeship coaching England’s younger stars.

Starting with the Under-15s in 2018, Cochrane has worked his way up to the Under-17s, a job still in the spotlight thanks to the World Cup winning heroics of 2017. Steve Cooper, the greatly admired manager of that side, is now in the midst of a blossoming career with promotion-chasing Swansea City.

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Next on the list is Frank Lampard. After taking the Chelsea job at a very early stage in his managerial career, an arena which left him open to scrutiny on a weekly basis, leading the Under-21s could be the perfect step back from the limelight for the former England midfielder.

Lampard’s proven track record of trusting and improving youngsters will also make him an attractive candidate, bringing through the likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori at Chelsea, a trio who have all kicked on to have exciting young careers.

Other names in the pipeline are Eddie Howe, Phil Neville and Chris Wilder. All three are out of work, but none make as much sense as the front-running duo.

It depends, then, what the FA see as their preferred route into England management. Cochrane has served his time and impressed coaching England’s youngsters, but this would be a huge step up. Lampard will have coped with much greater scrutiny, but his time at Chelsea did little to boost his managerial stock.

Swift action is expected, while the outgoing Boothroyd can take pride in a lengthy spell in charge of England’s rising international stars.