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Loughborough trio reflect on their roles in England’s youth football success

Following England’s youth teams’ success in the U17 FIFA World Cup, the U20 FIFA World Cup, and the UEFA U19 European Championships this summer, Al Stewart has been named the new Head of Strength and Conditioning at Loughborough University. This comes after he played a role in an amazing feat which saw England take home no less than four titles over one summer, something that has never happened before in the history of English youth football. These amazing achievements also make England only the second nation to win both major world youth tournaments in the same year.

This success is historical, as the win against Venezuela in the final at the U20 FIFA World Cup was England’s first appearance in the final of a global tournament since their World Cup victory 51 years ago. Also, the win against Spain at the U17 FIFA World Cup was England’s very first championship win in the age group, as the Three Lions had never gone beyond the quarter-finals in the tournament before.

More success was to follow during the UEFA U19 European Championships where England won their first title against Portugal, showing just how much English football has grown and developed over the past couple of years. The reason behind all this success? Well, the University likes to credit Al Stewart for these historical performances.

Coming to Loughborough with more than 12 years of professional football experience, and having worked with clubs such as Manchester City, Hull City FC and Huddersfield Town FC, Stewart’s arrival at Loughborough took the University’s strength and conditioning to the next level. His involvement with the junior and youth teams saw Stewart travel to Bosnia with the U17s for the Euro qualifiers, where they progressed though the three games unbeaten. He also travelled to Belgium with the U19s for a friendly and made a trip all the way to Japan and Korea with the U20s for the pre-World Cup camp and the competition itself. Here is what he had to say about it:

“My role with the age group teams at the FA is as part of a wider group of staff who all play a significant role in supporting the development and performance of the teams. Once in Japan, it was my role to lead the physical preparation of the players which includes, the pre-training routines, strength and power development sessions, warm ups, speed and agility development, load monitoring and recovery sessions. Whilst it was nice to play a part the ultimate credit for the success has to go to the players who prepared and approached everything with professionalism”

Two Loughborough University alumni also helped England achieve success this summer, and these are Matt Reeves and Jack Robinson. Reeves is a Sport and Exercise Science graduate who has worked for both Leicester City and Hull City FC. He is currently the Head of Fitness and Conditioning at Leicester City where his main objectives include reducing injury occurrence amongst athletes whilst improving physical preparation, athletic development and overall performance. He has spent the past two seasons providing support to the England U19/U20s at international championships, so his hard work contributed without a doubt to England’s success this summer.

Also helping the teams achieve success is another Sport and Exercise graduate Jack Robinson, who has progressed through the ranks as a Goalkeeping Coach for Leeds United before he moved on to Crystal Palace and then Manchester United. Since 2015 he has been National Goalkeeper Coach for The Football Association, working with the U15-U17 national teams, so he can undoubtedly take some credit for the U17’s World Cup triumph.

In addition to these incredible football performances, Loughborough has had the honour of being selected to host some of the UEFA U17 European Championship finals in May next year. Alongside Burton Albion, Chesterfield, Rotherham United, St. George’s Park and Walsall, Loughborough University will see Europe’s 16 elite nations go head to head on the football pitch to determine which country has the best U17 football team.

Fingers crossed for more English success in May.