England Under-21s boss Aidy Boothroyd felt the worst he had in his career after the European Championship campaign over the summer – but has stressed he is now firmly focused on the future.
The Young Lions made a group-stage exit at the tournament in Italy and San Marino, losing 2-1 to France and 4-2 to Romania before drawing 3-3 with Croatia.
Boothroyd says it took “probably about a month to five weeks” for him to get over what was England’s worst performance in the competition since 2013.
The bid to qualify for Euro 2021 starts with a double-header against Turkey away on Friday and then Kosovo in Hull three days later, for which Boothroyd has named a squad featuring just three still-eligible players from the summer’s group – Phil Foden, Reiss Nelson and Morgan Gibbs-White.
When asked on Monday at St George’s Park about the summer’s Euros, the 48-year-old former Watford and Northampton manager said: “What I can tell you is that in my career so far I have had promotions, relegations, play-off semi-final wins, play-off final losses, FA Cup semi-finals, things like that.
“This was by far the worst I have felt after an event – even relegation from the Premier League.
“Because you work for two years for two weeks. For two mad moments… But it’s done now. That’s it put to bed this morning, that’s it put to bed now. We’re done with it and we look to move on.
“It’s done, it’s finished, I am here, I’m ready to go for the next bit, and there’s no point wallowing in self-pity, no point wallowing on what has gone on before, you can’t do anything about it.
“We are focused on the next bit now and on what is going to be a difficult qualifying group.”
Midfielder James Maddison and goalkeeper Dean Henderson both claimed England were better than France and Romania after the defeat at the Euros against the latter that left Boothroyd’s side eliminated.
And Boothroyd said on Monday: “There was sort of talk about arrogance, and I think there’s a fine line between arrogance and confidence.
“We want our players to play the game in the right way but also behave in the right way.
“I think what happened after the Romania game, two young players, it was the folly of youth really, just embarrassed at going out and probably saying completely the wrong thing in that we were the best team in the tournament. Well, we’re not, because we got knocked out by Romania.
“It’s just bravado and I think a bit of a defence mechanism. But I don’t know what you were like at 20 or 21. I certainly was full of it – even more full of it, I should say!
“I think that is all it is. I don’t think we have an issue with arrogant players.”
He added: “It is important. We bring our players in on good character and we expect them to be humble, because they are a role model for not only the kids you see walking around here but also millions of kids that shout their name and kick a ball into a wall pretending it’s a net.
“It is just the folly of youth I think.
“I talked about it with the players (on Monday morning), and the importance of not just what they’re trying to achieve and who they are but what they represent, and what representing England means.
“You’ve got to be more than just a good footballer, more than talented, you have to live your life in the right way – that’s what we want.
“The new Under-21s group, when I look at that, it is very exciting. But they will make mistakes and get things wrong – different things hopefully – and it will improve them and make them better people and better players for when they get to the seniors.”
Maddison is among a trio from the summer’s squad, along with Mason Mount and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who are currently with Gareth Southgate’s seniors.
Arsenal forward Nelson did not train with the Under-21s on Monday due to personal reasons, with it hoped that he will join up with them on Tuesday.
Club-mate Joe Willock and Burnley’s Dwight McNeil have withdrawn from the squad due to minor injuries.