We take a look back at the England U18 Schoolboys’ 2021/22 international season, highlighting the journey they have gone on as a group and what this fantastic squad of players have achieved together this season
The England U18 Schoolboys’ final squad was announced back in December following an intense trial process, sponsored by Pro:Direct, across the South East, South West, the Midlands and North regions. All trialists were nominated by their local County Schools’ FA to attend these regional trials, with hopes of being selected to pull on the three lions shirt as part of the final squad.
The final Pro:Direct trial was hosted at Lilleshall National Sports Centre in December 2021, where a representative side from the North and the South faced off for a place in the final squad. Richy Alderson, ESFA U18 Schoolboys’ manager said: “I was very impressed with the high standard of individual players and both teams representing the North and South in the final trial at Lilleshall. The final trial was one of the best that I have witnessed for a long time.”
Following selection, January saw the boys attend their shirt presentation ceremony hosted by ESFA chairman, Mark Hignett, at Rectory Park in Middlesex. The boys were presented with their England shirts, provided by ESFA official kit provider Pro:Direct and sponsored by ESFA principle partner Utilita – a proud moment for the players and their families. Following the presentation, the boys played their first friendly fixture against the RAF U23 side, coming away with a 4-1 win to get their international campaign off to a flying start! Read the full match report here.
Next up for the England schoolboys was a trip to Crystal Palace to play their U18 academy side. A tough challenge against a technically gifted opponent was ahead, but the boys played superbly to claim a 1-1 draw. England Manager, Richy Alderson said: “I thought it was a good challenge for us against a good, technical full-time academy youth team. We possibly deserved to win, with some good scoring opportunities missed and it was disappointing to concede from a set-piece – but that is something we can work on at the St George’s Park training camp next week. I thought we had some excellent performances across the team and we were particularly pleased with the way our four centre halves played as well“. Read the full match report here.
February half term saw the squad travel to St George’s Park for their preparatory training camp courtesy of ESFA sports tours partners, inspiresport. During their training camp they played the Notts County U18 side and came away with an impressive 2-1 victory. England Manager Richy Alderson said: We had a fantastic training camp at St George’s Park during February half term. The 4 days certainly helped with team bonding on and off the pitch, developing understanding of tactics throughout 4 very good training sessions, and the game versus Notts County youth team was an ideal challenge. The players really enjoyed the experience, living the life of an international youth player for 4 days at the home of football. An incredible experience that players and staff will cherish. Read the full match report and roundup of their February half term training camp here.
See the England Schoolboys in action at their St George’s Park training camp below.
For their final friendly before their competitive inspiresport Centenary Shield fixtures, the squad travelled to the magnificent Shrewsbury school to play the ISFA (Independent Schools’ FA) U18 side. A strong ISFA team pushed the England squad the whole way and equalised in the final seconds to end the game 3-3. Read the full match report here.
inspiresport Centenary Shield
Northern Ireland v England
England kicked off their Centenary Shield campaign with a trip to Belfast to play their Northern Ireland counterparts. With the game being broadcast live on the BBC, the pressure was on for the England boys to get their campaign off to a flying start. After a closely contested game, a late winner established this night as a memory to cherish for many of these young men. Read the full match report here.
England v Scotland
Just a week later, England were back on home turf hosting Scotland at Spennymoor Town FC-in front of a crowd of more than 2000. The fixture, which was arguably the most highly anticipated fixture in this year’s Centenary Shield campaign saw England come away with an impressive 4-0 victory. Read the full match report here.
England v Republic of Ireland
Friday 8th April saw the squad travel south to Eastleigh FC where the squad faced a strong Republic of Ireland side, with both teams competing for a spot at the top of the Centenary Shield standings. With a strong crowd at their backs and former England goalkeeper David James on commentary duty, the England Schoolboys did themselves proud, coming back from a goal down to secure a 1-1 draw. Read the full match report here.
Wales v England
The England boys concluded their inspiresport Centenary Shield campaign with a trip to Wales to face a strong Welsh side. England fell to a disappointing 4-1 defeat to round off their international season, in a game against the eventual winners of this season’s inspiresport centenary shield. Read the full match report here.
You can watch the entirety of England’s Centenary shield campaign on our youtube channel ESFA TV here.
Overall it has been a very successful season for the England U18 Schoolboys and as a group they have represented their country and the ESFA with pride. The ESFA wishes everyone involved in this season’s England U18 Schoolboys’ squad the very best with their future endeavours and hopes that they look back on this experience with pride and fondness.
The ESFA would like to thank the England U18 Schoolboys management team who all give up their time on a voluntary basis to support the international programme and help develop the best up-and-coming players in schools’ football. A special thank you goes to the manager Richy Alderson who has come to the end of his five year spell with the England Schoolboys, and has given his all throughout this experience, to provide the players involved the best experience possible. He ends his 3 years as England manager with 14 wins, 7 draws and 2 losses in, a very respectable record at the very highest level of schools’ football.
The ESFA would also like to thank all of the players’ parents for their commitment to each England Schoolboys’ journey and for travelling the length of the country to get behind the squad.
The ESFA have received some amazing feedback from player and parents from this years programme that you can read below:
“I Just wanted to say a massive thank you to you for involving me in the whole thing. I have made memories and friends which will undoubtedly live with me for the rest of my life. I have loved every minute of it, and could not be more proud of everyone involved. -Joe Paradise
“I’ve absolutely loved the last 12 weeks of being an England Schoolboy and have made memories I’ll never forget. My main highlight would’ve been either the 4-0 smashing of Scotland at Spennymoor or captaining the side against Notts County at SGP which was a very proud moment. It’s been the best couple of months of my life so thank you very much.”–Jack Beerling
“What a time I’ve had over the last few months…made some memories that will be with me for the rest of my life and I’ve loved every minute of it. Feel like I’ve also learnt more and the whole experience has made me progress as a player and as a person off the pitch too. Loved it all.”– Ashton Fox
“Thank you so much for a really fantastic few months and for all your support and encouragement to Jack. It has been an incredible experience and he’s absolutely loved being part of it all. Thank you!”– Mr Bates
The ESFA would like to thank the sponsors of the international programme, Utilita, Pro:Direct, First Point USA, inspiresport, UCFB, Statsport and Zone Broadband. Their support allows the ESFA to provide the England Schoolboys with the best possible experience and put them in good stead for their careers going forward. A big thank you also goes out to all the player sponsors who have supported a young local talent and allowed them to show off their skills on the international stage.
Finally, a big thank you to Garry Griffiths from 353 photography who has captured the England U18 Schoolboys international journey brilliantly throughout the season. Please contact 353 Photography to purchase any images of the England squads this season.
The National Governing Body for Schools’ Football in England.