Fifa World Cup: the man who taught Gareth Southgate all he knows, England’s most successful manager predicts win against Croatia
Former under-17 boss has nine of his former players in Russia with the senior side and hopes they can go all the way
“I don’t take credit for Gareth being as successful as what he is,” says John Peacock. “He’s done that on his own. He’s been fantastic.”
The Manchester United academy consultant took England boss Gareth Southgate on both his A and pro coaching licences and is delighted with the job his former charge is doing at the World Cup in Russia.
“I think the biggest thing we’ve had in England over the years is that our expectations have been too high too often but the environment created by Gareth and his staff, I think it’s a really positive environment.
“You can see that by the players and their down time, they’ve enjoyed it, and obviously you can see by the quality of the play on the pitch.”
That play has seen them outperform people’s expectations.
“Realistically, we would have tried to reach the quarter-finals but then you’re into that situation of the unknown a little bit, the fine margins everybody keeps telling us about and it’s tough to get to where they’ve got. Now you’re one game away from potentially a World Cup final.”
How does he feel seeing a manager he helped through his qualifications and nine players that he coached for the England under-17s sit 90 minutes from the biggest game in football.
“Proud, first and foremost, and keen to see them finally jump that last hurdle.”
Peacock is the most successful England manager in recent memory having guided the under-17s to
the 2010 and 2014 under-17 European Championship titles during 13 years in charge of the team.
Nine of his former under-17s are in Russia with England, including two of the three current keepers.
“I had (Jack) Butland in 2010 at the Euros, and I had (Jordan) Pickford the year after when we went to the World Cup in Mexico. It’s like chalk and cheese. Two different characters completely. Two very good goalkeepers. It was always going to be interesting for me, outside looking in, to see which one would finally step up for the first eleven. Pickford’s got it and he’s done brilliant.”
As current holders of the under 17 and under 20 World Cups, England's future looks very bright.
Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson is excited by the nation's future.#OptusSport #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/lJ3gCaUCAv
— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) 10 July 2018
“I’m sure Butland would have done potentially as well but they obviously see something in Pickford which I presume is his kicking ability and his passing.
“He actually saved two penalties for me in Mexico against Argentina in the last-16, which none of the press have picked up on. We beat them on penalties. “
That team, which also included Raheem Sterling, lost to eventual winners Germany. But it’s a player that never played for his under-17s that has impressed in Russia.
“Henderson’s done better that a lot of people have expected but they’ve all done better than expected. That’s the group togetherness, for me.
“England is a young team. You can see that there‘s a lot of young players in it.”
That shared youth – England and finalists France have the youngest World Cup squads after Nigeria – could be key to the “brotherhood” that Peacock talks of as vital in winning tournament football.
It was something he saw first hand at England’s World Cup triumph when the under-20s triumphed in South Korea last summer. A feat followed by the under-17s in India last October.
He sees it in Southgate’s senior side but that’s no guarantee in tournament football.
“Playing tournament football, which is probably where my experiences lie in particular, is difficult
You’re a long time away from home, coming up against many good teams.”
“What will be the defining moment tonight? it’s like last night’s game. The thin dividing line of that set play goal that was the difference. I don’t suppose it’s going to be any different this evening if I’m honest. They are two very good teams, they are there on merit.”
Aside from more than 200 games with the under-17s and coaching countless future full internationals, most of Peacock’s coaching career has been with youth players but for a brief stint as part of the Derby County set-up with Paul Clement. Now he has just completed the last of an intensive three-part training session for 30 local district-level coaches in conjunction with the Hong Kong FA and the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
“My heart says England, obviously, but we’ll wait and see. I’m looking forward to it. It’s so good that we’ve finally got England back to a semi-final after 28 years.
“I see nothing to cause any problems, we’re all passionate as English people you just hope they come through it. What a year that would have been, to have two World Cups at youth level and a World Cup final with your seniors. You can’t get much better than that.”