FIFA U-17 World Cup: My lads are not softies, says England coach Steve Cooper

England aim to carry forward a good summer for their young teams that saw the U-20s clinch the World Cup. The U-17s start off with a match against Chile.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata | Updated: October 8, 2017 4:08 am
England u 17 football team, England coach Steve Cooper, FIFA u 17 world cup, fifa u 17 wc, Football news, Indian Express Steve Cooper refused to take any side for granted ahead of his side’s campaign opener against Chile. (Express photo by Kevin DSouza)

In 2012, during a Premier League match against Fulham, Wayne Rooney suffered a deep gash on the right thigh following a collision with Hugo Rodallega. The Manchester United striker insisted on staying on the pitch, but team doctors refused to accede to his wish. Later at a Manchester hospital, surgeons were shocked at the extent of the injury that required 11 stitches to join the skin.

Rooney is a street footballer, a dying breed in England, who never played with the fear of getting kicked or suffering injuries. The England U-17 footballers, here to play the World Cup, are mainly academy products, growing up in fairly protected environment in terms of injury prevention. Are they adequately toughened up?

In a recent interview, former Manchester United captain Roy Keane suggested that if a player is “worried about the physical side of any sport, then play chess”. England U-17 coach Steve Cooper says his lads are not softies and can bring in physicality to their game.

“That’s (physicality) very much part of our game and our culture. I’m very proud of the set of players and the way they play football. We ask them to play without fear, whether that is with the ball or out of possession. So I understand the question. I think there’s a lot of protection around players these days. It’s a game of football, but that’s the way English teams have been known for over the years. If we were to lose a little bit of that, I don’t think that will be good for us,” Cooper said.

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