England to play Ghanaian counterparts in South Yorkshire on Easter Sunday.Keith Downing, who has been appointed by The FA as England U20s head coach on a permanent basis, will take full time charge of his Young Lions for the first time on Sunday 27 March against Ghana, at Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat Stadium at 4pm.
Downing started his managerial career as manager of Cheltenham Town during the 2007/08 season, before joining West Bromwich Albion in 2009 where he enjoyed various roles; joining as academy coach before working as joint-assistant head coach under Roy Hodgson and Steve Clarke, and then as first team caretaker manager in 2013/14.
He joined The FA in July 2015 – where in interim charge of the side, he has enjoyed wins against the Czech Republic, Holland and Turkey.
Speaking to TheFA.com, Downing said he was really pleased to be getting the chance to continue working with the team on a permanent basis. He added: “We’ve enjoyed our time together so far and I’m really looking forward to continuing to working with the players.
“We’ve got a good blend of experience in the squad and the U20s setup is an age group that has only been represented by England for a couple of years now, so it gives the players that have come late in to the system that opportunity to experience what it takes to play for their country.”
Matt Crocker, Head of Development Team Coaching, said he was delighted that Downing had been appointed. He said: “In his time as interim coach for us, we’ve seen the players produce many of the key strands that are embedded in to our style of play, as part of the England DNA philosophy.
“It’s vitally important that the players get the right exposure to the different challenges of international football, and having games against different opponents from all continents, such as Ghana, is really important for their development. The hope then is that the U20s setup can provide that stepping stone in to Gareth in the U21s and hopefully through to the seniors.
“By working closely with the players and staff, Keith has the coaching experience, intelligence and personality to help us achieve that.”
The new U20s head coach was also thrilled that the team would be heading to Doncaster for his first game in full charge. Downing said: “It’s a lovely place and a great stadium, so we’re delighted there’ll be hosting us. It is a really exciting game we have to look forward to against African opposition, and Ghana have notoriously done well at youth level so it will be a good test for us.
“It’s an Easter Sunday as well and so it’s a great opportunity for local fans and families to come and enjoy a day out at the football, and watch up and coming England stars on their home turf.”
The game at Doncaster will be the U20s first fixture of 2016, and the first Three Lions game at the stadium in three years. Downing’s team will be hoping for similar fortunes to Noel Blake's Under-19s, who beat Denmark 3-1 in February 2013 with the likes of John Stones, Eric Dier, Calum Chambers and Chuba Akpom all involved that evening.
Tickets for the game in Doncaster are from Saturday 13 February and cost just £3 for adults and £1.50 for concessions. They can be purchased directly from Doncaster Rovers by clicking here or by calling 01302 762576.