Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah has offered his support for the England Under-21 manager who is under pressure Aidy Boothroyd after the squad lost the first two group stage matches of the European Championship.
The Young Lions missed a shot on target in their 2-0 defeat to Portugal on Sunday, having lost their opening match to Switzerland last week.
England could still go on to win by two goals over Croatia in the final, but they need Portugal to beat Switzerland in another Group D match.
Unless that happens, the tournament campaign will be judged as a huge disappointment for a team featuring players from Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham.
What did Nketiah say?
After being appointed captain by Boothroyd ahead of the tournament, England Under-21’s top scorer stepped up to enter the press conference under difficult circumstances.
“We know Portugal a great team and Switzerland a good team, but we are well prepared and it depends on us,” Nketiah told reporters.
“We know we have quality and it’s just about producing it and the little details that are missing for us. The attention and detail in the feed and the creation is all a bit slow. We have to look at ourselves and take the transition opportunities when we have them.
“We have to learn, improve and try to finish strong. One thing we can all agree on is that we know what it means to represent your country. It’s not because we didn’t try enough. We just lacked a little of that quality when we created.
“Aidy has done brilliantly for all of us. When we won in qualifying, there wasn’t much attention to him. As players we all have to look at ourselves first and foremost. We all know the quality we have and we haven’t fulfilled that or play to the best of our ability, both individually and collectively. “
What did Boothroyd say?
“We have players who play in the Premier League, Championship, Eredivisie and Bundesliga,” said Boothroyd in Ljubljana. “I think we have players in all kinds of games. Maybe there is something in the number of games they play [which is why they underperform] which I think is valid to come to me.
“They play in the Europa League, the Champions League and that might be a bridge too far for some people in terms of physical results. We don’t take it too lightly in terms of preparation and the problems we face. Every tournament we participate in, we want to get to the last stage because that’s where we learn the most.
“I don’t think any of our players or staff will underestimate him. We don’t have time to sulk or complain. We haven’t scored or scored close enough in the last two games. We have to get to bottom. The last game is very important to show that we can perform. good and we can win the game.
“When depressed about his future, Boothroyd added:” The only answer I can give is that I’m lucky to have had some really big ups and downs. I’ve had it for the rest of my career like losing a Play-Off final, it’s true with that and it hurts because you always want to win.
“I have to do my job and lift the players, add the staff and if we can’t qualify, we want to finish well. While there is hope, we have to go.”
Is Boothroyd worthy of criticism?
Boothroyd was not only criticized for the 2021 campaign, but he also fell short in 2019 in which a team with Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Tammy Abraham, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and James Maddison were also eliminated in the Euro group stage.
England are excited about the latest generation of footballers to emerge from the country, but that hype has yet to translate into success at U21 level.