sport news How the FA rebuilt England and turned them into genuine challengers on the ...

sport news How the FA rebuilt England and turned them into genuine challengers on the ...
sport news How the FA rebuilt England and turned them into genuine challengers on the ...

Having appeared in just four semi-finals from 1966 to 1996, England have now reached the same stage in their two most recent tournaments — plus a third if you include the 2019 Nations League.

The stark improvement is the result of years of work by multiple people, on the pitch and behind the scenes. 

Below, Sportsmail examines some of the factors which have raised standards and made England challengers on the international stage. 

England have reached the semi-finals for the second major tournament in a row

England have reached the semi-finals for the second major tournament in a row

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Greg Dyke's twin targets

There was scoffing at the time but the targets FA chairman Greg Dyke laid out after his appointment in 2013 were significant and the starting point for England's improvement.

'The first (target) is for the England team to at least reach the semi-finals of the European Championship in 2020,' said Dyke, 'and the second is for us to win the World Cup in 2022.' 

Then-Football Association chairman Greg Dyke set bold targets which 'changed the mindset'

Then-Football Association chairman Greg Dyke set bold targets which 'changed the mindset'

Dyke formed a commission to examine how to improve the team. 'Dyke's report prompted a real change in mindset,' explains Mike Rigg, the FA's former head of talent identification. 

'At the time, the targets set a goal for everyone and it was, 'OK, if you want us to win the World Cup we can't keep doing what we have been doing'.' 

Dan Ashworth's appointment

Dan Ashworth is reluctant to take credit for England's improvement but Rigg describes his appointment as FA director of elite development in September 2012 as a 'game changer'. 

Ashworth, now Brighton's technical director, arrived amid widespread FA reform.  

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Dan Ashworth, now Brighton technical director, being appointed was called a 'game changer'

Dan Ashworth, now Brighton technical director, being appointed was called a 'game changer'

Gareth Southgate as Under 21 manager, Dave Reddin as head of performance services, Matt Crocker as head of development team coaching and Rigg were key appointments around the same time and they shaped England's future.

'Ashworth was sitting at the top, overseeing everything in a really strategic way,' says Rigg. 'The foresight of the FA to appoint someone like him made a significant difference.'  

England DNA

Ashworth was one of the creators of the 'DNA' philosophy introduced by the FA, with Crocker also a driving force. 'It wasn't widely accepted as a good move but it started to change the way people played and coached,' says Rigg.

The DNA introduced some consistency to the England set-up throughout the age-groups and ensured players knew what was required of them as soon as they walked through the door. 

It is now common for all the coaches from Gareth Southgate down to have regular meetings

It is now common for all the coaches from Gareth Southgate down to have regular meetings

Having a common strategy also helped make up for FA staff having less time with players compared to club coaches. Previously, coaches of each England team — as good as they were — were doing their own thing and playing different systems and styles.

That all changed, so players aged 15 and upwards know what is demanded of an England player tactically, technically, physically and mentally. There is room for flexibility, as the senior team's pragmatism and formation changes during the Euros show, but the core principles remain.

With the approach joined up, it is now common for all the coaches from Southgate down to have regular meetings, sharing ideas and developing the identity.  

Making senior internationals at youth level

FA research on 10 countries in 2013 underlined that success at youth level led to success at senior level. One aim of the DNA was to create a seamless transition as players progressed through the age groups.

That is being achieved if you look at the players Southgate has picked for this tournament. In 2017, England's youth teams enjoyed a remarkable

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