Aidy Boothroyd admitted that England under-21s’ exit from Euro 2021 was “devastating”, but insisted he remains the right man for the job.
England exited in the group stage despite beating Croatia 2-1 in their final match. A 2-0 win would have seen the Young Lions through, but Domagoj Bradaric scored a stunning goal in stoppage time. Despite not changing the outcome of the match, it had a greater significance, putting Croatia through at England’s expense.
Boothroyd has come under pressure after England failed to win their first two group matches. Indeed, he admitted that they gave themselves a “mountain to climb” with their earlier results.
But reacting to the elimination, the 50-year-old said he hopes the players can learn from the experience.
He told Sky Sports: “I thought tonight we were excellent. We’ve been criticised for not being creative but tonight we were very creative in everything we did.
“But we missed chances we would normally take and to lose in the manner we did, to get in the position where we were in – and he’ll [Bradaric] never score a goal like that again – that is very disappointing.
“As far as the group, we gave ourselves a mountain to climb and we almost did it. But unfortunately we lose out by one goal and they’re the fine margins.
“It’s devastating now but an experience like this is something that stays with you forever and will benefit the players in their careers and that’s what the U21s is all about; it’s a developmental team.”
Boothroyd responds to questions of his future
Out of contract with England in the summer, Boothroyd is under pressure. We revealed earlier that this tournament is likely to be his last and a number of replacements have been lined up.
But when the question of his future was put to him, Boothroyd insisted he is still the right man for the job.
He responded: “I think so; the amount of players that have come through this season would suggest there is a pathway working.
“Our youngest players know they have a chance to play in the first team because of the way we’re structured. Of course it’s important and we want to win; but to produce players and win tournaments at the same time is very difficult.
“I love being involved with these players, I enjoy it and it makes it more difficult to deal with this and answer questions. I will keep going and we’ll see what happens.”