CHERRIES manager Eddie Howe believes Gareth Southgate and England should be applauded for investing in youth.

Howe thinks the policy has played a major role in the Three Lions prospering on the biggest stage at the World Cup.

Victory over Sweden booked England a place in the semi-final for the first time since 1990 with Croatia standing between them and a chance to emulate the class of 1966.

But while the exploits of the senior squad in Russia have gripped the country, Howe is convinced the seeds have been sown in the younger age groups over the past few years.

Led by Cherries midfielder Lewis Cook, England won their first Under-20 World Cup after beating Venezuela in South Korea 12 months ago.

And victory for the Young Lions at the Under-17 World Cup in India in October saw England become only the second nation – after Brazil in 2003 – to win both of FIFA’s under-age tournaments in the same calendar year.

Cook and Cherries team-mate Aaron Ramsdale also featured as England under-21s brought up a hat-trick of successive wins in the Toulon Tournament in May.

Howe, who was heavily linked with the England job before Southgate was appointed in November 2016, told the Daily Echo: “Gareth and his team have invested in youth and made sure all our age groups really attack tournaments in a very positive way.

“We have gained credibility in the younger age groups and that has been propelled into the senior team.

“A lot of the players in the squad in Russia have come through from the under-21s and below and we are starting to reap the rewards of that.

“There was much debate when Gareth first named his squad because it included a number of players with only a handful of caps.

“But irrespective of whether we win it or not, his decisions have all been vindicated and he deserves huge credit for that.

“There is a feelgood factor about the national team now.

“People are backing the team and it is so refreshing to see such a positive vibe because that is something which hasn’t been there for quite some time. Hopefully, it continues for as long as possible.”

Howe, who was capped twice by England under-21s, will watch the last-four clash against Croatia during Cherries’ training camp in La Manga, which will run for 11 days.

He added: “I have enjoyed the World Cup immensely and England have done superbly.

“They have handled themselves well, not just in the matches, but away from the games as well. That can sometimes be just as important as what happens on the pitch.

“Gareth has done a magnificent job and when he speaks, he speaks with so much sense and clarity. Full credit to him and his team for what they have achieved so far.

"I would love to see us go all the way and have been impressed with how we have grown throughout the tournament.”