England U21s failed at Euro 2019 due to ‘overconfidence bordering on arrogance’, says FA chief Les Reed

Team featuring Aaron Wan-Bissaka, James Maddison, Mason Mount and Phil Foden went out at the group stage of the competition in Italy

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Thursday 05 September 2019 07:05
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England failed at this summer’s Under-21 European Championship due to an “overconfidence” that “bordered on arrogance”, according to newly-appointed FA technical director Les Reed.

A team featuring Aaron Wan-Bissaka, James Maddison, Mason Mount and Phil Foden went out at the group stage of the competition in Italy, having lost all the games that mattered, only picking up a point in a dead rubber against Croatia.

Reed, embedded in a squad for his first tournament since taking the job in February, felt that an overconfidence from various factors – winning a World Cup before, negotiating new deals with clubs or “being talked up” – led to individual mistakes from a realisation that games were not going to be a “walkover”. England were defeated by Romania and France before drawing with Croatia.

“There’s a number of things,” Reed said. “That year group is a tough year group, particularly when half of them had already won a World Cup and then a number of them were starting to become household names and getting Premier League appearances.

“And being talked up. Inevitably when that happens they get into the realms of talking about new contracts and negotiations at their clubs.

“And I think when you want to win tournaments you need to be confident. You need to have a bit of a swagger. But it doesn’t need to border on the arrogance and I think getting that balance right, I didn’t think we achieved that completely.

“’A lot of the goals conceded were individual errors; a loss of concentration. But it [overconfidence] contributed to errors in judgement on the pitch.

“I think because we had a good squad and they had been successful on the pathway, it was probably overconfidence. It was a mental thing, in terms of believing they were going to win the tournament and being probably overconfident and then realising in game play there is another team out there. That it’s not a walkover.

“I wouldn’t go overboard on it because a lot of the goals conceded were individual errors, lack of concentration. I think it is a combination of things, that’s not the only thing. But it contributed to errors and errors in judgement and decision making on the pitch.”

Reed said that in reviews the players immediately blamed themselves rather than manager Aidy Boothroyd.

“We had a lot of feedback from then. They hanged themselves out and said they under-performed, it wasn’t Adie.”

Reed similarly defended the FA’s decision to give Boothroyd a new contract before the tournament.

“Well that was in process before I arrived, so that was already under way, and I think my feeling would have been, had it come up, to go through that then take it away before the tournament would not have been a good idea, in terms of motivation and so on.

“I don’t really see it as too much of a serious problem because the 21s go through two-year cycles so what Aidy’s actually got is a new two-year cycle. So the key thing is what did we learn from that tournament in the summer, what can we now work on to improve that over the next two-year cycle? And yes, we under-performed, we had good quality players, we had a good quality squad, and we did under-perform.”

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