By Dan Salisbury-Jones, ITV News Sports Producer
Gareth Southgate’s boss Dan Ashworth says England’s World Cup success shows they are now “knocking at the door” and can win a trophy in the next four years.
The FA’s Technical Director sat down with our Sports Editor Steve Scott in St Petersburg to reflect on the tournament and discuss how the team can go even further next time.
Ashworth said: “We’re all a little bit disappointed we didn’t get through the semi-final. I think when we get back and get time to reflect we’ll be proud of the progress that the team’s made but we set out by building St George’s Park and building this to try and land a tournament.”
Wider expectations were unusually low for England this time though, especially as they had the third-youngest squad of the 32 teams competing.Ashworth said: “We haven’t got over the line in this tournament but we’ve shown some progress with a young team that haven’t got many caps compared to what winning teams would look like. We’re hoping that we can all go to the next stage and win a trophy in the next two to four years.”
England’s dreams of winning the World Cup in 2018 were ended by Croatia, with their outstanding midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic helping sway the game in their favour.
Ashworth thinks England should soon have such players of their own, saying: “Modric and Rakitic are terrific players obviously but they’ve got big match experience. We’ve got some technically gifted players already in our senior team and I think with a bit more big game experience we’ll be able to handle those bigger games.
“Also some players that are in the development teams as well, we’ve got some really technically able players that I think will be able to deliver on the world stage.
“We’re starting to see a different type of player coming out of the system now that’s more technically and tactically able. I think that’s been shown in some of the success of our development teams.
“We have three teams here at the FA that we call our winning teams, we have the women’s team, the men’s senior and the men’s 21s. And in the last three years we’ve got to four semi-finals so we’re knocking at the door and I think history will tell you that teams tend to have to knock at the door first before they break through the door and win something.”
Ashworth joined the FA as Director of Elite Development in 2012 and hopes this tournament will send out a message about where English football now finds itself.
He said: “I was sick to death as a proud Englishman of the world telling us we didn’t have any good coaches and we didn’t have any good players, I would hope that this tournament and some of the success of our younger teams has helped put England and our players and coaches back on the map.”
Such recognition could also lead to lucrative offers from clubs but Ashworth insists he and Southgate are concentrating on England.
He said: “Do you know what? We haven’t talked about it, we haven’t thought about it, it’s been totally about the World Cup and we will refocus again on Spain. We’ve got the Nations League, we’ve got to qualify for the Euros. Absolutely we want to be at that, we’re hosting some of the games so we’ll be fully focused on the job in hand.”