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Southgate U17

SOUTHGATE URGING WEST MIDLANDS FANS TO ROAR ON YOUNG LIONS AT U17 EURO FINALS

Gareth Southgate is hoping World Cup fever arrives early in the West Midlands – so that the region’s fans get behind an England side competing at a major tournament on their very doorstep.

Just 40 days before Russia 2018 gets underway, England will begin hosting the UEFA European Under-17 Championship for the first time, from May 4-20.

Walsall’s Banks’s Stadium is one of six tournament venues and will stage the Young Lions’ eye-catching Group A showdown with Italy on Bank Holiday Monday May 7 (ko 3pm). Tickets are priced just £5 adults and £2.50 concessions.

Although Southgate’s primary focus over the next two months will be preparing the men’s senior team for Russia 2018, he is taking a keen interest in how Steve Cooper’s Under-17s progress on home soil.

The former Aston Villa captain posed with the U17 Euro trophy the 16 competing nations will be trying to get their hands on at an England Supporters’ Club forum at Banks’s Stadium on Tuesday night.

And Southgate is urging the passionate West Midlands fanbase he knows well from his playing days to come out in force for the Young Lions.

“I had six very happy years at Villa Park so it’s great to be spending some time back in the area,” said the England boss, who represented his country on home soil at Euro 96.

“I know just how passionate the fans in this region are about their football and I really hope they turn out in numbers at Walsall to support England against Italy.

“It’s a rare occurrence to play in a tournament at home, so it will be a real honour for our Under-17s. I’ve been to the Banks’s Stadium many times to watch our development teams in action and it’s a great venue for the Italy match.

“Last October we had three million people watching our Under-17s win the World Cup in India and there’s a real excitement about the players we’ve got coming through.

“These tournaments are part of the pathway for us getting players ready for the senior team, and U17 Euro has been the starting point for so many world class players down the years. Supporters will be watching the stars of tomorrow playing today.”

The Banks’s Stadium is also hosting Portugal’s Group B meeting with Norway on May 4 (ko 1pm), Germany’s Group D dates with Netherlands on May 5 (ko 3pm) and Spain on May 11 (ko 7pm), plus a quarter-final on May 14 (ko 1pm). For non-England group matches, tickets are only £4 adults and £2 concessions.

Wolves’ Taylor Perry and Albion’s Rayhaan Tulloch are both part of the current England Under-17 set-up and will be eager to get the nod to represent their country on home soil.

England, runners-up in last year’s U17 Euro, face an Italy side that reached the finals as one of seven best runners-up. The Young Lions get the tournament underway against Israel at Chesterfield on May 4 before completing their Group A fixtures against Switzerland at Rotherham on May 10. The other host venues are St.George’s Park, Burton Albion and Loughborough University.

“The U17 Euro is the first FIFA/UEFA tournament our players can compete at and we’re so excited it’s taking place on home soil,” said Cooper, who led the Under-17s to World Cup glory five months ago.

“There’s always a great pitch and atmosphere at Walsall and I’d encourage local supporters to step it up even more for this one. It would greatly benefit my players, that’s for sure.

“We’re looking forward to doing our very best and trying to deliver when it matters.”

Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard, David Silva, Wayne Rooney, Mario Gotze and Paul Pogba are just a handful of the stellar names to have starred at previous editions of U17 Euro.

Jack Butland, Nathaniel Chalobah, Ross Barkley, Joe Gomez, Dominic Solanke and Lewis Cook, who have all been involved in senior squads this season, have previously won U17 Euro with England.

See the stars of tomorrow in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship as England take on Italy at Walsall FC on 7 May, KO 3pm. Visit www.TheFA.com/U17Euro for tickets and further information.