With England’s destinations and opponents for the FIFA U-20 World Cup mapped out ahead of them, manager Peter Taylor is looking forward to the experiencing the fervour of the fanatical football culture in Turkey.
Speaking at the draw for the finals, Taylor was expecting big things from as he cast an eye over the build-up to the competition, which kicks off on 21 June. “They are absolutely passionate football fans here in Turkey," the former England senior caretaker manager told FIFA.com. "They said at the draw that the beauty of football is to bring all the people together and it seems that there is a very good atmosphere around.
“Turkey are working extremely hard to make it a successful tournament. I hope they will get rewarded with good attendances and good attacking football. I am sure they will be.”
The Young Lions were drawn in Group E, where they will face CAF African U-20 Championship winners Egypt, AFC U-19 Championship runners-up Iraq and Chile, South America’s fourth-placed seeds. England themselves reached the finals with a fourth-place finish in last year’s UEFA European U-19 Championship in Estonia and Taylor is under no impression that they will find an easy ride anywhere in Turkey.
“Any team in this tournament is going to be a strong team. There will be three very hard matches for us in the group stage. We will prepare as good as we possibly can and will hopefully have some success.”
England have often struggled at the tournament, only reaching the last-16 of the biennial tournament twice since their best-ever finish of third in Australia 20 years ago, but Taylor – who managed the Bahrain national team until April 2012 – is optimistic about the prospects.
We're really keen to get off to a good start and if we manage that, we could go a long way.
He said: “You get the feeling here that it's going to be a really big, important tournament. I think this summer's going to provide us with a lot of good attacking football. We'll be working hard on scoring goals and hopefully making ourselves tough for our opponents. We're really keen to get off to a good start and if we manage that, we could go a long way."
Taylor has ample experience with England youth sides, spending two three-year spells with the U-21 team, where he had a 65 per cent win ratio during his 40 games in charge, but narrowly missed out on the European Championships despite only losing three times.
This year’s team are scheduled to spend much of their time in Antalya on the south coast, before a potentially crucial clash with Egypt in Bursa to end the group. The former Tottenham Hotspur winger is looking forward to what are familiar surroundings – and even hopefully some familiar support.
“We are pleased where we are going to. We know Antalya, we know the base. We are very happy about the training camp there.” On the chance of having some well-backed support from home, Taylor was optimistic after being informed of an expected sizeable pocket of fans there. “That’s what we were told. We are hopeful about it.”
The team is expected to resemble much of the squad that helped England reach Turkey 2013, with the likes of Manchester United defender Tom Thorpe – who captained them in Estonia, Nathan Redmond of Birmingham City and Chelsea youngster Nathaniel Chalobah potentially amongst their ranks. However, with a busy schedule of youth international action for England, Taylor is not ruling out having a fairly unfamiliar selection at his disposal.
“We will be a little bit like a new team, to be honest. We will have the U-20 tournament and a U-19 tournament as well. This is why we want to have all our players together as quickly as we can.”
Taylor will also be assisted by Chris Ramsey, who led the U-20 side at Nigeria 1999 that ultimately struggled, losing all three of their games. Former Aston Villa and Rangers defender Ugo Ehiogu has also been added to his staff, who has been coaching with Tottenham Hotspur Academy.