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England Under-21s are an absolute joy to behold at the moment

Aidy Boothroyd's side are giving English fans further reason for cheer

After 52 years of hurt, England fans can finally smile again.

Jubilant scenes were witnessed across the country as England lifted the prestigious UEFA Nations League Group A4 title.

The good news doesn’t stop there.

While our UEFA Nations League heroes go from strength to strength under Gareth Southgate, Aidy Boothroyd’s Under-21s have quietly embarked on a 22-match unbeaten run.

Job done

PA:Press Association
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Job done

A 5-1 win against Denmark extended the run, meaning the Under-21s will complete 2018 without defeat.

You have to go back to June 2017 to find the last time the Young Lions tasted defeat, although that came after a penalty shootout against Germany at the European Championships.

It was also the Germans who inflicted England’s last defeat over 90 minutes on 24 March 2017.

But results are only part of the reason why England’s Under-21s are such a joy to behold at the moment.

Different age-group, same handshakes

PA:Press Association
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Different age-group, same handshakes

There’s a clear identity in the way Boothroyd’s side go about their business with attacking intent and a will to play out from the back starting from the goalkeeper.

Competition for places meant Boothroyd was able to leave Ryan Sessegnon and Ademola Lookman on the bench against Denmark, with Reiss Nelson and Demarai Gray chosen to start out wide.

There’s also healthy competition between Dominic Solanke, Tammy Abraham and Dominic Calvert-Lewin to start as the lone striker.

Boothroyd went with Solanke against Denmark and was rewarded as the Liverpool forward scored his fourth goal in the last two games, one of which displayed supreme ingenuity.

Lewis Cook dominates play from a deep position where he can find Phil Foden lurking in the pockets of space he so expertly operates in.

Boothroyd’s group are clearly enjoying themselves, which hasn’t always been the case.

This is a natural by-product of winning, but it’s also a clear indication that growing up visiting St George’s Park during international breaks has fostered a collective attitude across various age-groups.

The Under-21s are proving to be a conveyor belt of talent for the senior squad.

Of the fourteen players who starred in England’s win against Croatia, only Jadon Sancho hadn’t represented the Under-21s.

His meteoric rise means he skipped straight from the Under-19s to the senior side, although that leaves out a large German-shaped part of his story.

Lewis Dunk is the only other member of Southgate’s latest England squad without Under-21 experience.

Never double dunk

Getty Images - Getty
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Never double dunk

A defined path between the Under-21s and the seniors means Nelson and co have a point to prove every time they step out onto the pitch.

With a European Championships on the horizon, England have never been in ruder health at Under-21 level.

As if it couldn’t get any better, Boothroyd has added Sol Campbell to his coaching staff, meaning an endless supply of Instagram gold.

What a time to be alive.


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