UEFA Women’s Under 17 Finals Preview with England Under 17 Coach, Lois Fidler.

u17“We have had quite a journey with some real ups and downs”

Is it a quote attributed to England football manager, Roy Hodgson? Perhaps England rugby union coach, Stuart Lancaster? Maybe even, England cricket coach, Andy Flower.

In fact, those words come from Lois Fidler, coach of the England Under 17 Women’s team, reflecting on the twelve months leading up to the UEFA Women’s Under 17 Finals tournament which begins in England later this month.

Fidler’s squad have taken part in tournaments in Spain and Norway in the last year, in the build up to the Finals. During April in Spain, England lost to the hosts 2-0, lost 4-1 to France, before finishing with a 2-0 win over Turkey.

In July at the Nordic tournament it was again a mixed-bag of results as they lost 4-3 to Denmark and 4-1 to Sweden, drew 1-1 with Norway, before finishing with a 2-0 win over Iceland.

However, it was the friendlies against the USA that made the most impression on Fidler and her team, after losing 6-0 at Hinckley United FC and 5-0 at the St. George’s Football Centre in Burton.

“USA gave us a lot to think about, they were so advanced physically. Our players did really well in the second game and learned an enormous amount from the experience”.

Indeed in their last friendly before the European Finals, England were the team were handing out the beating rather than being on the receiving end, as they thrashed Wales 5-0 at AFC Telford’s, New Bucks Head Stadium.

Now with the competition just weeks away, Fidler is confident that the squad is “physically and physiologically well prepared”. She qualifies this by explaining that, “for the last year we have been working with them on values, what they want to get out of this experience and how they want to develop as players along with other areas, so mentally they are ready.

Physically we have a strength and conditioning coach who has been working with them and we’ve worked on intensity in training sessions and friendly matches to prepare them physically as best as we can – always being careful in this age group”.

Indeed, it is evident that Fidler is very aware of protecting young players at this age from the exertions and pressures of game preparation and the expectation that taking part in a major tournament brings.

Before the Finals, coaches are often asked who the players that supporters should look out for are. Fidler’s view, in terms of the England squad is that she, “wouldn’t want to put pressure on the players like that – they have to perform to the best of their ability and at this stage it’s all about development, progress and learning”.

Even when looking at the other finalists, the England coach was keen to steer away from naming individuals. “I have done my research but I wouldn’t put the players under the microscope. It will be fascinating watching how the players respond and who embraces the extra pressure and matches of tournament football. It’s a big learning curve for all of the players”.

When pressed about her targets for the England team and which teams amongst the favourites at the Finals, Fidler said that, “first and foremost we want to get out of the group and then ideally get a podium finish (as winners, runners-up or third-place) to make it to next year’s World Cup.”

She added that, “Germany are always strong, France have done well – Spain do well in youth tournaments, but it’s hard to call. Poland won the last tournament and haven’t qualified this time round.”

But Fidler acknowledges that these Finals are not just about what happens on the pitch and is conscious of the ‘bigger-picture’.

“I hope they (the players) really enjoy the experience. It’s not often you take part in a tournament in your country with all your friends and family around, so I hope they embrace it and use it to progress.

For the four regions I hope they have raised the profile of the game and encouraged more girls into the sport. They have all worked so hard, as can be seen in the predicted attendances.

I hope there is a lasting legacy there.”

A new journey for Lois Fidler and her England Under 17s is about to begin.